Alexis grabbed her cell phone, just as the alarm went off. After 4 years of waking up at 6:30am every day, her body was pretty well trained to wake up the minute before her alarm. She had tried many different kinds of alarms, and her cell phone worked the best, it was loud, obnoxious and she could change it to different noises every day if she needed to. She turned off the alarm and set her phone back on the nightstand. Stepping out of bed, she wrapped her robe around her shoulders. It was a 3-quarter sleeve, thigh length, dark green, pure silk, traditional kimono robe her mother had given her 2 years ago, after her parents came back from a trip to Japan. She always kept it right next to her bed; the feeling of softness as she first woke up gave her a feeling of being pampered and was a good start to her day. Alexis walked into the bathroom and turned on the hot water for her shower. While it was heating, she checked her reflection in the mirror, grabbed her tweezers and cleaned up a few stray hairs in her eyebrows. She was a firm believer in first impressions, and she had a bunch of meetings for potential buyers this morning. She knew it would bide her well to look her best.

The shower had reached the perfect temperature and Alexis opened the glass door and stepped in. She still had a little bit of a fuzzy head from the night before. Although she had gotten a lot of sleep, she was always a little out of it the morning after drinking. The feeling of the hot water and steam helped to loosen the fog but until she had her coffee, she wouldn’t be completely awake.

It had been good to talk to Valerie about Jackson, but she wasn’t really looking forward to running into him, a run in that was undeniable to happen. She shampooed and conditioned her hair and ran through her schedule in her head. She had a showing at 10:30 and 12:30 and 2:30, and a meeting with a potential seller at 4. She loved her busy days, especially when it was full of showings, walking through a beautifully decorated house always perked up her mood. Her own 3 bedroom, 2 bath home had been her second big purchase on her own – first was her 2006 Mustang GT in red. She had loved the car, and the house, the minute she saw them. She rarely bought anything that she wasn’t absolutely in love with.

She always kept her house spotless and decorated up to the highest trends. Of course she also mixed some of her favorite old comfortable furniture, but she wanted to feel like she was encased in beauty every time she came home. Out of the whole house, her bedroom and kitchen were her favorite parts of the house. She loved to cook, even though most of the time it was just for her. She tried a new recipe almost every day, and had a book of her favorites that was about 3 inches thick. During the holiday’s, she went all out, and loved hosting thanksgiving dinner for everyone.

The centerpiece of her bedroom was a large 4 poster cherry wood bed. Her comforter and pillows were all down, and the covers were in shades of green. When she curled up at night, the bed made her feel small and like a little girl again. The other aspect of her room that made the rest of her friends a little jealous was her walk-in closet. It was a 15 x 15 foot closet, packed with designer shoes and enough clothes to make sure she always had something new to wear.

Alexis finished washing out her hair, and rinsing off her body wash. She shut off the faucet, opened the glass door and grabbed her towel. Once she had dried enough, she stepped out of the shower, hung her towel on the rack and slipped her robe back over her shoulders. Walking back into her bedroom, she sat down at her vanity and ran a comb through her hair. She decided to wear it loose and wavy, and with the humidity in Texas, her waves would practically create themselves. She put a little of her favorite hair smoothing serum in her palm and ran it through her hair, it was all she needed to make sure it didn’t frizz. She picked up her powder brush, her morning make-up routine was minimal; she usually just wore a little powder, blush and mascara. Every once in while she would add a little eye shadow and eyeliner to perk her up a bit, especially after a night like she’d had last night. Putting on her deodorant and a splash of perfume, stood up, dropped her robe over her chair and walked into her closet.

She riffled through her blouses, trying to decide what she wanted to wear. It was going to be a warm day, so she figured she would wear a skirt and one of her lightweight short sleeve silk blouses. She selected a baby pink and white polka dotted blouse, a black pencil skirt and a pair of strappy black Jimmy Choo’s. Tossing the clothes onto her bed, she wandered to her lingerie drawer and picked out a white lace bra and panty set. She loved knowing that udnerneath her clothes, there was something a little sexy. She buttoned up her blouse, zipped her skirt and slipped on her shoes. Walking over to her mirror, she looked herself up and down. Not too sexy, but it flattered her shape. Satisfied, she grabbed her purse, cell phone and keys, and walked down to the kitchen.

Alexis grabbed her coffee grounds and filter from the shelf above the coffee maker. She measured out enough grounds for 2 cups of coffee and placed them in the filter. She filled the coffee maker with water, dropped the filter in the top, closed the lid and pressed start. While she was waiting for it to brew, she opened her fridge door. She always kept it packed with her favorite foods so it was easy for her to cook. The only thing she never kept in her fridge was meat, as she liked going to the butcher each day, to see what looked good, so she always got what she was craving that day. Her friends always teased her that if it was a necessity for cooking, it was in her kitchen. Her one guilty pleasure that she was never without was kettle corn popcorn, the mix of salty and sweet killed any craving. And of course, a few pieces of really high quality dark chocolate. No woman could ever live without chocolate.

This morning she was craving something with eggs. Looking through her supplies, she grabbed out 2 eggs, milk, shredded cheddar cheese, tomato, avocado and bacon. She chopped up the tomato and avocado while she tossed the bacon in the microwave. She whisked the eggs with a splash of milk in a bowl, pouring it into the frying pan, she turned on the burner. The timer on the bacon dinged, she pulled the plate out and broke the bacon into pieces. The edges of the egg had started to firm up, which meant it was time to add in the other ingredients. She tossed in the tomato, avocado, bacon and some shredded cheddar cheese. Grabbing the spatula, she began to fold them into the eggs. The smell of cooking food filled her kitchen, beginning to wake her up. She finished fixing her eggs and scooped them onto a plate. She poured herself a cup of coffee, added a little cream and sugar, and sat down to eat. She always ate breakfast at the island in the kitchen, which had a couple of stools for when people wanted to sit and visit while she was cooking. When she had friends over, they used the dining room, but when it was just her, there was no reason to. Plus, she loved the smell of her kitchen after she finished cooking. It always enhanced her meals, and she was closer to the coffee pot for refills.

Alexis finished her breakfast and began cleaning the dishes. She wasn’t really a neat freak, but she hated leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Sliding her plate in the dishwasher, she flicked the door closed with her foot. She grabbed her purse and keys off the counter and walked out to her garage. She couldn’t help but smile every time she slid behind the wheel of her Mustang. When she picked out the car, it had been easy. She had walked into the dealership, walked right up to a sales guy and told him straight out that she wanted a red mustang GT, manual, black leather, interior upgrade package and wanted to be out the door for under $27K. The sales had looked at her like she was crazy, which she probably was, but that is neither here nor there. Unfortunately for him, rather than say okay and begin working on getting her into the car she just requested, he decided to question her judgment. ‘Wouldn’t you love a convertible or what about tan leather?’ So, she politely asked to speak to another sales associate. An hour and a mound of paper work later, she had a new car, and the original sales guy was none too happy. She has never worked well with people who questioned her judgment.

She pressed her garage door button and the door opened. She back out of her driveway, shifted into first, and turned on her radio. Country music filled her speakers and she began to sing along. Her mother and Valerie always teased her about her ‘car singing’; it was always at the tops of her lungs, and always out of key. She loved to sing, she just didn’t do it very well.

Alexis arrived at her office and pulled her car around back. She parked and finished singing the last couple lines of the song she had been listening to. She hopped out of her car, grabbed her purse off her seat and shut the door. She clicked the lock button on her remote and listened to the beep of her car locking. It was such a bubbly sounding lock, it always made her smile.

She reached her office back door and unlocked and opened it. It led her directly into her own office, giving her the ability to come in and work, without having to open the front door. Since her office was in the middle of downtown, if she came in the front entrance, she was often stopped by locals who wanted to chat. She liked being able to sneak in unnoticed.

She sat down and pressed the buttons to turn on her computer. While it was firing up, she noticed the red light blinking on her answering machine. She picked up the receiver and dialed in her password. The first one was from her 10:30am appointment. He wanted to change it to 10am, and was assuming that it was okay, and would see her then. She hit delete, shaking her head. Why did people always think that their schedule was the most important? Just because he wanted a 10am appointment, didn’t mean he could have it. Luckily, she didn’t have any appointments before his planned, so it was okay, but his assumption frustrated her. She looked at the clock, 9am. She heard her voicemail tell her she still had 2 more messages, but she needed to get ready for the meeting, so she hung up the phone. Just as she placed the receiver back into the cradle, she heard the lock in the front door. Her assistant was always right on time, it was really nice to not have to worry.

She heard the front door open and Sarah walk in. She heard the chair slide out and Sarah sit down. Alexis knew it would be only a couple moments before Sarah stood up and knocked on her door, like she did every morning, to see if Alex was in there. Alex saved her the trouble and walked over to her door. She opened it and walked out into the lobby.

“Hey Sarah. How’s your morning going so far?”

“I’m doing good Alex, thanks. I’m just a little sluggish, in need of some coffee. Didn’t you say that there is a great place just down the street?”

“Yeah, it’s called ‘The Fix’, run by a woman named Becky. She is really sweet, but just a little kooky. She keeps reminding me to bring you down and introduce you. She likes to know everyone that works in town. “

“Okay, well I will head down there and pick something up, if that’s okay with you?”

“Sure! Will you bring me back an iced coffee? Just tell Becky it’s for me, she’ll know what to add. Hold on; let me go grab some money.” Alexis walked back into the office and grabbed the company credit card. She handed it to Sarah. “Oh, and be careful, she’ll keep you there for hours if you let her!” Alexis laughed, and Sarah smiled.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon, we have to get ready for your 10:30!”

“Oh, yeah, he called, apparently he wants it to be at 10am, although he didn’t really give me a chance to say no.” Alexis shook her head, “people like that really drive me crazy. If he wasn’t looking at the house on Pine Ridge, I would be more upset.”

Sarah nodded in understanding. Most of the homes Alex sold were between $500K and $1.5 million. There weren’t too many houses over $2 million in Sugarland, although the hills above the lake had a few. The Pine Ridge house was one of them. It was on the market for $5 million, and was worth every penny. It was a gigantic house, located on one of the hills of Rakesford, secluded from everyone, with a great view down to the lake. It was a 7,000 square foot monster with a 7 car garage and its own tennis court. The backyard had been featured so many times in home magazines that Alexis had lost count and the interior of the house was just as beautiful. Alex’s commission on the house would enable her to take a month off to travel during the summer.

Alex pulled out the Pine Ridge file, figuring she would brush up on the details of the house. 8 bedrooms, 10.5 baths, with huge sliding glass doors in the master bedroom and views out to the lake. Custom built kitchen with top of the line cook top and fridge. All marble counters. The list of gorgeous amenities went on and on, but she knew that all it would take was for the Mr. and Mr. Samuels to see the house to be sold on it. They had been looking for a house above the lake for 6 months, and this one just came on the market 3 days ago. They had 2 kids, both of whom were in college, so the huge house was really just for them. They wanted a home that the kids would want to come back to, but more importantly, a home they could host all of their lavish parties in. Mrs. Samuels was known for throwing formal dinner parties almost every weekend. Alex heard the gossip from her mom, as she was usually invited.

Despite the high price tag, the houses in that area sold very quickly, as it was rare for them to come up for sale. She even had a list of people on file that she was supposed to call every time one went up. Mr. Samuels had been at the top of the list, and it only took him 2 days from when she called for him to come in for an appointment. She just wished he hadn’t ‘assumed’ Alex would be available whenever he wanted.
Alex wiggled her mouse; her computer had gone to sleep while she was out talking to Sarah. She scanned through her emails; she had about 40 junk emails, a few requests for info about homes, and a few she actually cared about. Her dad had sent her a joke, her mom had sent her some article about dating, and Val had sent her a comment on her MySpace. Her dad’s jokes tended to be funny, her mom always sent her dating advice, and the MySpace comment from Val was probably about how hung-over she was. She decided to ignore the emails and went straight to her RSS feeds. Clicking on her folder for Perez Hilton, she was excited to see what was going on in the world of gossip.

She heard a knock at her door, and looked at the clock, surprised that it had already been 10 minutes. She called out ‘come in’ and looked back at her computer screen, clicking on the next post.

“Hey Alex”, the deepness of the voice surprised her. She had expected Sarah, but when she looked up, she locked eyes with a 9 year older, but still just as handsome as ever, Jackson Taylor.

She couldn’t believe her eyes. She tried to find words, but her mouth had gone dry. He was more handsome than she remembered, if that was even possible. He had grown an inch or so she figured, and guessed he stood at about 6’3” now. He still had dark brown hair, but he kept it a little shorter than he had when he was living in Texas. It was still a little unkempt, but fit his face. His eyes still shone a gorgeous deep blue, and she could feel them staring at her. He was dressed in khaki shorts, a white polo shirt and flip flops. She could see that he had maintained his physique; his arms looked great in his shirt, and she could only imagine the rest of him.

“Hi Jackson.” She had regained her composure and felt her heart rate go back to normal. “I had expected my assistant back with coffee, you surprised me.” Just then, there was another knock at her door, this time it was her assistant, coffee in hand. She handed Alex her coffee and slipped out the door, shooting Alex a ‘who is he?!’ look before it closed. “Like I said”, Alex commented, pointing to her coffee.

“Sorry to just barge in here, but this was the only real estate office I knew in town. But I didn’t know you worked here until I saw your name on the door. I thought your dad was still running the place?” Jackson paused to let her answer.

“He retired when I finished school, and I took over the office for him.” She glanced at the clock, 9:30. She was basically ready for the appointment, but she didn’t want Jackson here when the Samuels showed up. He made her nervous, and the last thing she needed when she was trying to sell a $5 million dollar house was to be nervous. “So I am assuming you stopped by for a reason?” She realized that had come out much ruder than she expected.

“Oh, sorry. Yes, I got transferred to Austin to open the new office for my marketing agency, but don’t want to live in the city. I was hoping to find a house here. And I was hoping your dad could help me. But, I guess it’s I was hoping you could help me?” He smiled at her and she felt her crush coming back again, he was so adorable when he smiled.

“Not a problem, why don’t you sit down with my assistant and go through what you are looking for. She will let me know what you want and I will set up some house tours for next week, if that works?” Alexis pulled up her calendar to see what she had available. “I have time next Friday?”

Jackson shook his head, “We are opening the office on Monday and the next month is going to be crazy, trying to find new hires and get the business going. I was really hoping to find and buy a house this weekend.”

Alex looked at him, “Well, my schedule is pretty booked, but I do have between 2pm and 5pm tomorrow.” She had planned to use that time to catch up on some back paperwork and research for other clients. If it had been anyone else she would have told him tough luck, and he’d have to wait a week. But she just couldn’t say no to him.

“Great! So should we go through what I am looking for?” Jackson went to sit down in one of the chairs opposite Alex.

“Oh, no, I have an appointment in 20 minutes. Like I said, sit down with my assistant Sarah and you can tell her what you are looking for. When I get back later this afternoon I will go through what you want and pull some houses for Saturday. We will meet her at 2pm and I will take you around”. Alexis smiled at him.

“Okay, and thanks again for making time for me. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.” Jackson stopped talking and stood there, like he was waiting for something.

Alexis reached her hand out to shake his, assuming that was what he was looking for. He looked at her hand like it was a foreign object, “Alexis Venn! I have known you since you were born, and you are going to shake my hand? I can handle being put off until tomorrow,” Jackson winked, “but I will not handle a hand shake like I am some random guy looking for a home!” He stepped around the desk and lifted her out of the chair in a big bear hug. He set her down and stepped back, “look at you, all grown up!” He laughed. Alexis cringed. She was not a little girl, and she sure as hell didn’t want him thinking of her that way. “Although, I never pictured you as a pink girl” Jackson said, looking at her pink blouse.

“It has been 9 years since you’ve seen me; things tend to change in that period of time.” She stepped back from him and put a hand on her hip. Jackson couldn’t help thinking she was right. The woman standing in front of him was definitely not the Alexis Venn he remembered. She was a cute girl when they were growing up, but she was definitely a woman now, and a very attractive woman at that. He had expected to see her father sitting behind the desk when he walked in, seeing her name on the door had surprised him, but not nearly as much as seeing the woman that was sitting behind the desk.

“I hope you haven’t changed too much, you were always so sweet to me.” He smiled at her, trying to shake the thoughts of her more adult body, and gorgeous face out of his head.

“Ha, thanks Jackson,” She decided that it was better if she ended this conversation before her appointment showed up, “I will see you tomorrow. I have to finish getting ready for my appointment.” She opened the door to let him out into the main office. “Sarah, can you sit down with Mr. Taylor and get the details of what he is looking for? I will talk with you about the houses when I get back later today”.

“Sure Alexis, I will put the parameters on your desk.” Jackson looked back at Alex and sat down in the chair in front of Sarah. Alex shut the door and could hear Jackson introduce himself as an old friend of hers. Right, a friend, great.

She sat back down at her desk and put her head in her hands. She needed to get her composure back. Her breathing slowed down and she started going back through her emails. A few minutes later, her 10am arrived and she walked back into the main office. Jackson was still sitting and talking with Sarah about floor plans and square footage. She said hello to the Samuels and led them out the door.

The rest of the day passed as a blur. The Samuels offered the full $5 million on the house, even willing to go as high as $6 if need be and the rest of her appointments went well too. But, despite the good day, all she could think about was Jackson and how good he looked. He would be in the next day to house hunt, and she wasn’t sure how she was going to handle an entire day with him.


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