Chapter 2

Looking out the airplane window, Jackson watched the city drop from view. He took a deep breath, as flying always made him a little nervous, and leaned back into his chair. He closed his eyes and tried to get himself to relax. His mind drifted back to the last time he had been in Texas, 9 years ago, and how he felt like he would never love a place like he loved Rakesford. It had been his home for 18 years, and he had loved every detail about it. When he left, he thought he would go back and visit as often as he could. But he never did.

It hadn’t been easy to get adjusted in the beginning, but much to his surprise, he had fallen in love with the big city life, where he was always busy, always with something to do. He got so involved at UCLA with school and extracurricular, that it just never seemed right to go home. Plus, his parents loved to travel so they had no problem coming to visit him, and usually did about every six months. His friends and he spent weekends traveling the coast, from Santa Barbara to San Diego and during the week they were either on the lawn playing soccer or in class. He worked hard and in 4 years, he had his degree in Business Marketing. When he graduated, he was offered a position with Modern Vision, one of the top marketing and ad agencies based in Los Angeles. He was a started as a junior copywriter and worked his way up to Vice President in just 5 years. Which was the reason he was sitting on an airplane flying to Texas. Jackson’s boss had been so proud of the work that he had done in Los Angeles, that his boss asked him to open their new office in Austin, Texas. The company had already expanded to Chicago, Manhattan and Miami, so the southwest was the next place to go. He had hesitation as he had built a life for himself in LA, and didn’t know if he was ready to go back to the heat, humidity and small town lifestyle. Although Austin was a big city, similar to LA, he knew his parents would want him to live in his home town again, as it was only 20 minutes away. It would be difficult to say no, as he did miss his horse, Stone, and he could never say no to his mom. She was the toughest and sweetest woman he knew. About 6 years ago, doctors discovered ovarian cancer, but after a year of treatment, she was cleared. She fought it and survived. She had been healthy for 5 years now and the experience had made her a stronger woman, and Jackson looked up to her for her strength.

The other reason he had hesitated saying yes was because of Leslie. In his sophomore year he had met what was to become his first love. Her name was Leslie Banning and thinking about her now made his heart hurt. The instant they met, he was attracted to her, much like the rest of his friends. She was blonde, tall, bubbly and beautiful. She was also smart and funny, but had been born with a platinum spoon in her mouth, and every once in a while, it was made very apparent. They had immediately become best friends, studying, partying and enjoying life together, but never as more than friends. It took 2 years and his graduation for them to finally take that step towards a relationship. During the planning of their graduation party he finally admitted he wanted to date her. Their 5 year relationship had its ups and downs, but they fell in love and made it work. When he was offered the job to go to Texas, he had to take a long hard look at his relationship and decide if he was ready to ask her to come with him. Asking her to come with him would mean that he was ready to settle down, and as much as he loved her, he wasn’t sure if he was ready to make it forever. When he told Leslie he was struggling with his decisions, she made it easy, telling him that without a proposal, she wasn’t going. Giving him the ultimatum made his decision easy, as he was never one to be told how things were going to be. Despite the fact that it was his decision to end their relationship, it still wasn’t easy to say goodbye.

Jackson opened his eyes and looked out the window. At cruising altitude it looked like they were floating through the clouds. The man to his right was engrossed in the book he was reading, something about politics and business. Despite Jackson’s business successes, he was never one to read business books for fun. He had enough of the business world when he was at work. He decided he ought to close his eyes, as he had about 3 more hours on the plane.

“Flight attendants please prepare for landing”. The captain’s voice over the intercom system jolted him awake. “Wow, I guess I was more tired than I thought”, Jackson muttered to himself. He rarely slept on planes, let alone for 3 hours, unless he was exhausted. He looked out the window again. This time he could see them descending through the clouds and Texas coming into view. It was a sight that, surprisingly, made him smile and warmed his heart a little. Maybe this was going to be a good change for him. Somewhere he knew he loved once, and was sure he could love again. Somewhere he could further his career even more. Somewhere to clear his head and forget about the stress of his failed relationship. The landing was a little jerky, but at least they had made it safe and in one piece. The fasten seatbelt sign turned off as they pulled up to the gate. Everything from his house in California was going to be shipped to Texas once he bought a house there. The realtor was the second thing on his list, right after he got to the hotel and took a shower. He always hated the feeling he got after being on a plane for 4 hours. He stood up and grabbed his briefcase out of the overhead bin. He slipped his mp3 player in and pulled out his cell phone, powering it back on. The minute the screen was up it beeped to tell him he had a message. Just as he was about to check who had called, the phone began to ring. Garth Brooks, “Friends in low places”. The ringtone for his best friend Greg.

Jackson clicked answer, “Hey man, I just landed, what’s up?”

“Just wanted to see when you were arriving in Texas, but I guess my question was answered.” Greg laughed.

“Yeah, flight wasn’t too bad a little rocky, but I’m here in one piece, so I’m good.”

“Nice, well hopefully Texas isn’t as boring as you thought it would be. There’s gotta be at least a couple hot women out there”. Jackson could hear Greg grinning through the phone.

“Yeah, I’m sure there are, but I am definitely not worried about women right now. You know I just want to get the office opened, and get back to California as soon as possible. I’m not planning on staying.” Jackson had gotten off the plane and arrived at the baggage claim. “Hey, I gotta run, my bags are just getting here.”

“Ok, well have fun, if you can”. With that, Jackson hung up and grabbed his suitcase. He wandered out of the airport and over to the rental car office. He needed a car to get him into town and for the first couple days until he picked out the right car for him. Normally, the type of car wouldn’t even be a question, but for a short stay, it was bound to be tough. He had an addiction to old classics, and he had almost cried when he had to leave his baby in California. A Plum Crazy Purple 1970 Convertible Hemi ‘Cuda.
He had been putting away money since he turned 16, promising himself that someday he would have the car. After his first year with Modern Vision, he received a pretty nice bonus check, just enough for him to finally purchase his dream. Every time he got into that car, he felt all his problems melt away. Nothing could touch him when he was cruising down PCH with the top down, sun shining and the engine growling under his foot. It was going to be impossible to find something that gave him the same thrill to drive, but he had to have something. He was thinking he’d probably just lease a BMW M3 or maybe a Dodge Charger SRT8. His company was giving him a stipend for the car, so he wanted something fun, but fairly reasonable.

He pulled his shades out of his briefcase, slipped them on and walked out of the airport and onto the sidewalk. The power of the Texas heat and humidity stopped him in his tracks. The sun felt like it was reaching through his skin and to his core. He had expected it to be hot, but he hadn’t remembered how hot. When he left Los Angeles, it was sunny and 68 degrees, the perfect temperature for spring weather. Here it felt like it was in the high 80’s, with about 90% humidity. By the time he got across the street to the rental agency, he could feel his shirt sticking to his body. He walked into the rental car office, the cool air conditioning felt amazing. Luckily, it was fairly empty in the office and he walked right up to the counter.

“Good afternoon, last name please” The counter lady looked up at him and he handed her his paperwork, driver’s license, insurance and company credit card. “Thanks, your company has already taken care of picking a car for you. I just need to enter everything into our system. I’ll have everything ready in just a minute”. He looked around the office while she typed his information into the computer. A few of the other travelers from his flight had begun to come in to pick up their cars too. “Here you go Mr. Taylor, you’re all set,” she handed him the keys to his rental car, “just walk out the doors and turn to your right. It’s in space 17”. He walked out front and was pleased to see that his boss had rented him a convertible Mustang. His boss and he had discussed cars often enough, it was nice to see that he remembered. He hadn’t really thought about leasing a Mustang, but it was a possibility. He tossed his bags in the trunk and slid into the driver’s seat. The seat leather was hot, but luckily they kept the cars in a garage, so they weren’t in direct sunlight. The minute he turned it on, he cranked the AC up full blast and cracked the windows, letting the heat escape.

Jackson pulled out of the garage and turned on the radio. The strong southern drawl of the announcer made him realize how much of his own accent he had lost in the last 9 years. Pretty soon the dj’s voice gave way to country. Jackson may have lost most of his accent, but he never lost his love for country music. He glanced down at the directions on the passenger seat. The airport was about 20 minutes from his hotel in Downtown Austin, and the drive was pretty straightforward. He got out onto the freeway and stepped on the accelerator. The engine purred under his foot. Not quite the sound he had grown accustomed to, but it wasn’t terrible. He glanced at the clock, 4pm. He was going to have to put Rakesford Realty on the schedule for tomorrow, as he wanted a shower more than he wanted to start finding a house. As he thought, the drive was easy and before he knew it, he was at the front of his hotel. He was staying at a beautiful historic hotel. He had been here once as a kid, and remembered how amazed he was when he looked up at the tall peaks of the architecture. Even now, it was still dramatically beautiful. He was in the heart of the business and entertainment district and planned on heading out to one of the local bars as soon as he cleaned up.

Fifteen minutes later Jackson was in his room, bags tossed into the corner and the hot water turned on. Check in had been a breeze and the bellmen were on top of their game. He stripped, tossed his dirty clothes in the corner of the bathroom, and climbed into the shower. The heat of the water immediately began to melt away the stress he had accumulated from his flight. He finished shampooing and washing and was letting the water beat off the rest of his stress. Unfortunately, his relaxation didn’t last long as he could hear his cell phone bleating from his jeans on the floor. Todd Rundgren “Banging on the drum all day”. His boss’ ring tone. He knew if he didn’t answer, his boss would never stop calling. Jackson sighed as he turned off the water, wrapped a towel around his waist and grabbed the phone.

“Hello Bruce. Thanks for taking care of the rental car and my hotel”. Jackson held the phone with one hand toweling himself off with the other, so he could stop dripping on the floor. Walking into the bedroom and sitting on the edge of the bed, he tried to keep the frustration of his interrupted shower out of his voice.
“Oh, no problem Jackson. When you get cleaned up, head down to the concierge desk. You have reservations in town with the guys that are helping you to open the office in Austin. They’ll meet you there at 6pm”. Jackson glanced at the clock, 5:00pm. That would give him enough time to relax a couple minutes, get changed and downstairs.

“Ok, thanks. I better get going if I want to meet them in time.” With that, Jackson signed off and tossed the phone onto the bed. He scooted back against the pillows, grabbed the remote and clicked on the TV. He flipped through the channels, landed on Sports Center and left it there. Leaning his head back against the wall, he thought back to his horse, Stone. Stone, a Palomino Quarter Horse, was just a year old when Jackson’s parents surprised him for his birthday. Now at 15, Stone was a strong, well trained, and great to ride. His parents had kept Stone stabled and trained while Jackson was in California and he was excited to get to ride Stone again. Jackson remembered riding him all over Rakesford, and especially down the lake trails. Thinking about riding to the lake, he wondered if Alexis Venn was still living in town. She had been the only one in Rakesford that could give him a run for his money on horseback. He meant to ask his parents about her, but it always slipped his mind. When he visited them tomorrow, he would have to ask. Sitting upright, he checked the clock again, 5:30. Time for him to get cleaned up to meet his new co-workers.

25 minutes later, Jackson was slipping his wallet and cell phone into his jeans pocket and heading out his hotel room door. He hoped that jeans and a button up were ‘cleaned up’ enough for these guys. The Los Angeles office was fairly laid back, but he didn’t know how the others were run. When the elevator doors opened on the lobby, he saw 2 gentlemen standing at the concierge desk – in jeans and polo shirts too. They both looked a little uncomfortable, trying to make small talk with one another. He knew they were from different offices, but assumed they might have met before. Although, he hadn’t met either one, so he wasn’t sure where his assumption had come from. One looked like he was in his late 20’s like Jackson, probably about 6’ tall, with a shaved head. The other looked more like his mid 40’s, graying brown hair and only about 5’6”.

“Hello gentlemen, I’m Jackson Taylor from the LA office”, Jackson extended his hand to the man on the right of him first, which happened to be the older one. They shook hands. He had a good grip, but it was obvious from the way he held that he felt he needed to maintain control of situations.

“Good evening Jackson, I’m John Peterson from the Miami office and this”, John gestured at the younger man, “is Clark Worthington from the Chicago office”.

“Hi Jackson”, Clark extended his hand, “and thank you for the introduction, John. As he said, I am from the Chicago office, and I was brought here as the Client Manager. John was telling me that he is the new Human Resources Manager, so I assuming that you are the new Creative Manager?”

“That would be correct. Bruce said that we were to co-manage all hiring, but that we would each be the managers of our own departments once we found the new employees. Unless you guys are in desperate need to get started tomorrow, I figured we could take a 3-day weekend to get settled and start business on Monday?” Jackson waited for a response.

Clark grinned and smiled, he could tell Jackson and he was on the same page. “Sure, sounds good.”
Jackson sensed John’s hesitation, but heard him say, “Yeah, that’s okay”. John obviously was more determined to get started immediately.

With that settled, Jackson decided to see if the guys were ready to get dinner. He was starved after his flight. “So, are we ready to head to dinner? There is a great steak place that I know of about a block and a half away – if it’s still here. We can walk there, if that’s okay with you both?” They both looked at him, a little confused. “Oh, sorry, I grew up in Rakesford, which is about 20 minutes from Austin. I moved out to California 9 years ago.” Jackson’s explanation lifted the puzzlement from their faces. He continued, “I’ll check with the concierge and make sure the place I’m thinking of is still in business.”

The concierge confirmed that Samuels, the restaurant he had been thinking of, was still in business and reserved a table for their party. Jackson walked back over and let the men know they were ready to head to dinner. “Thanks for taking care of plans for us”, Clark smiled and headed towards the door. They all walked out into the still, warm evening air and headed into downtown, towards Samuels. The walk was quiet, the men still sizing each other up, determining who felt that they were the leader. Jackson broke the silence, “So John, how was your flight out?”

“It was really easy, but I actually got here a couple days ago, I wanted to have a little bit of time to get settled before we got down to business. My wife and son are starting to look for homes.” John looked at Clark, “When did you arrive?”

“I flew in today, like Jackson, but I arrived about 6 hours ago. I have just been trying to get adjusted to the heat. Chicago isn’t this warm during the spring.” Clark laughed. They arrived at the restaurant, and Jackson held the door for the others to walk in.

The three approached the counter, “We have reservations, under Taylor”. Jackson looked at the hostess; she was younger, probably in just about 22, but very cute. He smiled, maybe Texas wouldn’t be too bad.

“Right this way gentlemen”, as she led the way he couldn’t help but glance at her rear end, he had always been a butt guy. He looked at the other two; they were doing the same thing. She paused at a table and waited for them to sit. As she handed Jackson his menu, she winked. Texas was definitely going to be better than he thought. When she walked away, Clark was first to speak, “She was cute! Good thing my fiancé wasn’t here to see me looking”.

John nodded in agreement, “Yeah, my wife would have killed me if she caught me staring”. They both looked at Jackson to hear his response.

“Oh, I’m free to look – and touch. I’m single, my girlfriend and I split when I came here. I wasn’t really ready to settle down, and so she decided to end things”. Jackson got quiet as he ended his sentence. He really didn’t want to be thinking about Leslie tonight. Luckily, the server walked up at that moment.
“Good evening gentlemen, can I start you with something to drink?” All three nodded vigorously.

“I’ll have a gin and tonic, Bombay sapphire”, John spoke up first. Jackson looked at John as he ordered his drink; he seemed like a gin and tonic type of guy.

Clark ordered next, “Heffeweizen, please”. Jackson knew he was going to like this guy already, beer guys we always the easiest to talk to.

“I’ll take a Sam Adams, thanks”. Jackson smiled; a beer would mellow him out from the flight. Once the server left with their order, the table went quiet.

John broke the silence first, “Did either of you see the draft this week? I was surprised by some of the picks, and the not picked”.

Jackson nodded, “Yeah, I was too. It will be a really interesting season I think.”

Clark chimed in, “The pre-season games will definitely be revealing”. Once the conversation of sports had started, the guys were able to maintain a solid conversation. They paused as their drinks arrived and to order food, other than that, they maintained a solid conversation that rotated from football, to cheerleaders, to women and back to sports.

Two hours later, the men were stuffed; a little buzzed, and had gotten to know each other a little bit better. The three argued over whose company card it was to go on, settling on Jackson’s, as he picked the restaurant. Once that was settled, they all got up and headed back to the hotel. After a fairly quiet walk back, they parted ways to their own rooms, planning on meeting at the new office at 8:30am Monday morning. Jackson was looking forward to having 3 days to get settled, see his parents and his horse. He was hoping he’d be able to get a good start on his house hunt as well.

Jackson stuck the key in his door, ready to hit the hay, and hoping avoid too much jet lag in the morning. The room was cool, he had left the air conditioning on before he left, one of the perks of not paying the electric bill. He tossed his shoes into the corner, too tired to actually put them away. He stripped off his close and slid in the cool sheets. Setting his alarm on his cell phone, he hit the light and relaxed into sleep as his head hit the pillow.

2 Responses to “Chapter 2”

  1. K-Vac Says:

    I’m really enjoying it Kirsten!! ..I’m finally caught up, (sorry so slow). I can definitely hear you in it, and I like how well-rounded you are in describing everyone’s interactions with their inner-selves, relationships, how their environment affects them, etc.
    I will leave more comments on detailed parts as I read through it more often, and more slowly. …Keep up the aMAzing work!!!!!!

  2. Adriana Says:

    good job – needs some sentence-level work (corrections, run-on sentences, fragments, etc), but you really set the scene for who jackson is!

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