The Planning

Part 4

This chapter is focused more on Jasmin. When I started writing this chapter, I didn't intend for it to be centered on Jasmin. However, Anni was still avoiding thinking about her issues (yes, even in my mind). But hang in there. Anni's time is coming.

 

Just to reiterate, I understand we all want happiness (aka Jasmin and Anni together), and I have no doubt we will get there. Bear with the story, hopefully it will be worth it. This is my version.

 

As I said before, I believe in happy endings. )

Jasmin sat in her shop trying to decide which designs to choose for her presentation. Two weeks have passed since Anni left - since I set her free, Jasmin thought wearily – and she was absolutely miserable. Not a moment went by that she didn’t question – and regret – her decision. The only thing that was keeping her sane was getting ready for this meeting with Kiara Adler. Even that was barely successful.

 

There were many times when Jasmin would pick up the phone, prepared to beg Anni to come back to her. But what good would that do? Things would never change if Anni refused to talk, or if she couldn’t determine what made her run every time things became difficult. The relationship is doomed despite the love Jasmin had for Anni. So, instead of calling - as Jasmin truly wanted to do - she would make a silent wish on her ring, kiss it gently, and then lay it back on the dresser where it stays.

 

Jasmin bit her lip, trying to keep her tears from falling. She couldn’t cry. Not here, not now. At home, when she lay in bed alone, that’s when she let the tears come. It kept her from sleeping, but Jasmin was okay with that. When she did fall asleep, she would have nightmares about Anni finding someone else. It terrified her that Anni could be happy and open with another woman.

 

“What is wrong with me?” Jasmin wondered aloud. What was it about her that made everyone leave? Was she really that unlovable? Tears threatened again, and Jasmin forced herself to get back to work. Use your time wisely, she ordered. If - no when - Anni came back, Jasmin wanted her to be proud of what she had accomplished. Anni was the reason Tussi Attack existed. The tough love Anni had given Jasmin had driven her to be creative again. And, it turned out to be extremely good for Jasmin, as well as her confidence in herself.

 

The bell over the door chimed, and Jasmin felt her heartrate pick up. When Katrin walked in, she had to bury her pain and disappointment. I need to stop thinking Anni is just going to come back to me. Why should she?

 

“Katrin? Were we scheduled to meet?”

 

Katrin lifted the coffees she had in her hands. “No, but I thought you could use a break. You’ve been working yourself ragged.”

 

Jasmin gave her a small, grateful smile. “Thank you.” She accepted the cup, and took a careful sip. The burn of the bitter liquid was welcome as it took her mind off of the emotional hurt she felt. Jasmin pushed her sketch book towards Katrin. “I’ve been going over these, trying to select the items I think will impress Ms. Adler. I even came up with a couple new designs.”

 

Katrin flipped through a few pages, taking in the illustrations. “Are these the ones you’ve picked?” she asked, indicating the bright sticky-notes that ‘bookmarked’ certain pages.

 

“Yes. They range from fun and flirty to urban chic. I think they’re a good representation of Tussi Attack.”

 

Katrin nodded thoughtfully. Jasmin knew Katrin didn’t understand, or even agree with the direction she went with Tussi Attack. But at least she was getting better at not showing her disapproval. The chime sounded again, and again Jasmin cursed her jumping pulse. It’s not her, she admonished even before looking up to see their new visitor. When she did glance up, she was inexplicably captivated by the woman that walked in.

 

She was stunning. Tall with long, golden brown hair that fell past her shoulders, and shimmered in the sunlight. The hair framed a perfect face with flawless skin, high cheekbones, a regal nose, and full lips that held a hint of a smile. Even from where she was standing, Jasmin could see the woman’s eyes – framed by long lashes - were a fascinating shade of green. The way the woman carried herself spoke of confidence and maturity, but her eyes held enough mischief to make it impossible for Jasmin to determine her age.

 

“Ms. Flemming?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Yes?”

 

Both Jasmin and Katrin spoke in unison, making the newcomer’s smile grow, exposing straight, white teeth.

 

“Jasmin Flemming,” the woman clarified.

 

Her velvety voice tickled Jasmin’s senses. Shaking the feeling off, she made her way to the woman.

 

“I’m Jasmin Flemming.” She extended her hand in courtesy, slightly surprised at how soft the other woman’s skin was in comparison to firm handshake.

 

“Kiara Adler. I’m very pleased to meet you.” The ever present smile was genuine, and Jasmin was sure she had imagined a flicker of interest behind those emerald eyes.

 

“Oh!” Caught completely off-guard, Jasmin let her hand drop lifelessly to her side. First, she hadn’t expected this meeting to be so soon. She could have sworn she still had a couple of weeks to prepare. Second, she would have thought the CEO of a large, prestigious company, such as Frida, would be dressed in something more businesslike than the form-fitting jeans, and loose, sheer white shirt that exhibited her black bra “I . . . ”

 

“Ms. Adler,” Katrin spoke up, clearly sensing her daughter’s distress. “Katrin Flemming.” They shook hands briefly. “I’m sorry. We must have gotten our dates mixed up. I thought we were supposed to meet you in a couple of weeks.” Katrin began to dig out her phone in an effort to make sure she wasn’t going crazy.

 

“No mix up,” Kiara’s words held a tint of amusement, however both Jasmin and Katrin somehow knew there was no malice behind them. “I’ve found over the years that you get to know the true character of a person when you do the unexpected.” Kiara turned her attention to Jasmin. “You would have been prepared, perhaps overly so, if I had decided to keep the original date. This way, I get to see a few things. A,” she ticked off on her long, elegant fingers, “how you work under pressure, B, what you will choose to show me without overthinking it, and C – the most important one – how you will cope with working with someone like me,” she finished with an almost self-deprecating grin.

 

It was the childlike grin that snapped Jasmin out of her catatonic shock. Flashing Kiara her own best smile, Jasmin squared her shoulders, and walked back to the counter. With courage she didn’t know she possessed, Jasmin tossed a smile and a ‘come on’ over her shoulder.

 

Katrin, however, was not as accommodating. This was an important meeting for both her and Jasmin. Being prepared meant success in her book. It was something her business depended upon. “I must insist on the time we . . . ”

 

“Katrin, it’s fine,” Jasmin interrupted gently. “I’ve got this covered if you need to get back to the agency.” She turned to Kiara to explain. “Katrin is starting her own advertising agency.”

 

“Ah. A daunting task.” Kiara studied Katrin curiously. “However, I have no doubts you’ll do just fine. Good luck.”

 

Katrin was struck mute for a moment. Being observed by the intelligent eyes was nerve-wracking at best. She also knew that she was being dismissed by Jasmin. While that hurt – after all, she was the one that secured the meeting – she understood Jasmin’s need to do this on her own.

“Right. It was nice to meet you, Ms. Adler. Jasmin, I’ll call you later.” With a tense smile, Katrin left.

 

Kiara’s lips stretched into an entertained smirk. “Overprotective mother?” she ventured.

 

“New development,” Jasmin murmured, staring at the door with a bemused look on her face. Suddenly remembering she had a visitor – a very important visitor – Jasmin gave Kiara an apologetic smile. “Sorry, yes, Katrin is my mother. It’s complicated. I’ll call her later and apologize.”

 

“Apologize?”

 

“She’s the one that got me this meeting. I’m sure she’s not happy that I asked her to leave.”

 

Kiara tilted her head, studying the beautiful woman in front of her. Jasmin had surprised her. She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting, but this young, vibrant – gorgeous – woman wasn’t it. Don’t go there, Kiara. There was a story there between Jasmin and Katrin. It surprised Kiara that she was interested in knowing what that story was. Hell, she was interested in knowing quite a bit about Jasmin. Get your head back into business.

 

“She didn’t get you this meeting, Ms. Flemming. Your mother may have gotten in touch with my assistant, but I do not agree to a face to face without doing my own research. I did my due diligence with you.”

 

Jasmin was delighted. And, then completely ashamed. There was no telling what Kiara found. So many negative things have been said about Jasmin, she couldn’t imagine what Kiara thought of her now.

 

Kiara caught the look of humiliation. “I researched Tussi Attack, Ms. Flemming. I’m here to check out your designs, not judge you for whatever you’ve done in your life.”

 

Jasmin blew out a relieved breath. “Thank you. It’s not that I’ve done terrible things . . . ” she paused, thinking of the sex tape she had uploaded in a moment of utter stupidity and desperation. Her mouth clicked shut. Better to stay quiet.

 

With a slight nod, Kiara decided not to ask more personal questions, for now. “May I ask how you came up with the name of your business?”

 

“Ah.” A light blush graced Jasmin’s cheeks. “My . . . ” My what? Fiancée? Anni wasn’t hers anymore, was she? “My girlfriend at the time gave me the idea.”

 

Girlfriend? Well, that’s an interesting development. And, something Kiara did not want to think about right now, no matter how much she disagreed with herself. She smiled. “It’s catchy. And, what made you choose this style?”

 

“Again, my, um, ex. She’s a musician,” Jasmin answered a bit uncomfortably. It would be fine if she knew what Anni was to her anymore.

 

Kiara lifted a curious eyebrow. “Rocker chic,” she nodded, glancing around her. “Along with fun and sassy. It was a good decision.” Gesturing to the sketch book on the counter that separated them. “Show me your designs, Ms. Flemming.”

 

“Please, call me Jasmin, Ms. Adler.”

 

“Alright,” Kiara agreed with a sexy grin. “If you call me Kiara.”

 

Jasmin blinked. “Right.” Jasmin was nervous. More nervous than she thought she would be. But Kiara Adler was intimidating. She glanced up at the woman that stood a couple inches taller than herself. You can do this, Jasmin. “I don’t have samples to show you,” she said nervously, then caught Kiara looking around at the many pieces she had displayed. Jasmin closed her eyes, embarrassed, and tried to gather her wits.

 

Kiara chuckled softly. “Relax, Jasmin.”

 

“I don’t have all of the samples I wanted to show you,” Jasmin corrected.

 

“That’s okay. I can work with sketches.”

 

Jasmin turned the book towards Kiara, opening it to the first design she bookmarked. There was no time for her to second guess her decisions now. “I have this one on display,” she said, pointing to the wall behind Kiara.

 

“How about you show me what you didn’t mark.” Kiara’s eyes twinkled.

 

“But . . . ”

 

“Jasmin, when people choose what to show me from their design book, they inevitably go for the designs they think I want to see. I don’t want you to do that. I want you to show me what you like.”

 

Jasmin hesitated, but only for a moment. Before she could talk herself out of it, she turned to the back of the book. To her new designs. “These are new,” she explained, showing Kiara drawings of more edgy designs. They were inspired, of course, by Anni. Her aching heart guided her hand, and what emerged was a darker side of Tussi Attack. She glanced up, trying to gauge Kiara’s reaction, but the woman’s face was unreadable. “I know it’s not what Frida is known for. When I was younger I used to design more sophisticated clothing, but . . . ”

 

“But people change?” Kiara offered. “I know I have. When I first started Frida I thought couture was what I had to do.”

 

“Started? You’re the owner?”

 

Kiara nodded. “I am. Of course, I was young and impressionable. I took the advice of board members, and other advisers in this industry, and made it ‘posh and expensive’.” She tapped a pale pink tipped fingernail on Jasmin’s illustration. “I’m at a point in my life now where I’ve decided to do what I want. That includes making designs like yours available.”

 

“You’re interested in Tussi Attack?” It was almost too good to be true. Jasmin didn’t want to celebrate prematurely, but she could almost taste triumph. It only took one second of thinking about telling Anni to deflate her excitement.

 

Kiara saw the light in Jasmin’s eyes dim. Something told her it had nothing to do with business. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t, Jasmin. I had already made the decision to invest in Tussi Attack even before meeting with you. These new designs only solidify my choice.” She knew she was playing with fire with what she was about to suggest. But it wasn’t going to stop her. “How about I buy you a cup of coffee, and we can discuss terms?” She then noticed the coffee cup sitting just on the corner of the counter. “Or, lunch,” she laughed softly.

 

The light came back, if only just a glimmer, as Jasmin laughed with Kiara. “Lunch would be great, thank you.”

 

***

 

The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind for Jasmin. Kiara had taken Jasmin under her wing, working closely with her, and showing her the ropes. Jasmin was beyond grateful. She highly enjoyed spending time with Kiara, finding the older woman to be extremely easy to talk to, as well as fun to be around.

 

Her nights, no matter how long they were or how exhausted she was, were still lonely. She still missed Anni with every fiber of her being. So, it was a welcome distraction when she and Kiara worked into the wee hours of the morning, sitting on the floor, sharing pizza, and discussing everything from business to fashion to celebrity gossip. There were subjects that were avoided, however. Whether that was deliberate or not, Jasmin didn’t know. But she didn’t know anything personal about Kiara, and Jasmin stayed away from discussions about Anni.

 

The bell above the door jingled, and for the first time in the past few weeks, Jasmin didn’t wonder if it was Anni. She looked up and smiled warmly at her visitor.

 

“Hey!”

 

“Good morning, Jasmin,” Kiara returned Jasmin’s smile. “I come bearing gifts.” She held up a holder with two cups of coffee, and a bag of goodies was tucked between her arm and body as she held on to a binder.

 

“Yum! I’m starving.” Jasmin scooted around the counter, grabbing the bag to help lighten Kiara’s load. She immediately dug, picking out a chocolate frosted donut.

 

Kiara grinned at Jasmin who had completely become enthralled in donuts, failing to notice that Kiara still had her hands full. “Good?”

 

“Mmhmm.” She turned to thank Kiara, finally noticing her mistake. “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry!” She chuckled sheepishly. “I told you I was starving,” she repeated, taking the coffees. “What’s that?”

 

“First of all, the coffee on the left is yours. Just how you like it.” Kiara’s stomach jumped a little when Jasmin beamed at her. “Second, this,” she held up the binder, “is a list of stores that will be carrying Tussi Attack, along with numbers, and all that business stuff.”

 

“Wow.” It was still hard for Jasmin to believe this was actually happening to her. Part of her was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or, perhaps that happened when Anni left, and this was her life now. It was bittersweet. A mixture of sorrow and happiness that felt almost bi-polar. “How long before the items are stocked?”

 

“The factory will be sending out shipments starting tomorrow.” Kiara was busy sorting through the goody bag, looking for a plain, glazed donut, missing the shocked expression on Jasmin’s face.

 

“Tomorrow?” Jasmin squeaked.

 

Kiara abandoned her search, focusing her attention on Jasmin. “Yes. Are you ready for this?”

 

Jasmin plopped down on the stool she had behind the counter. She pressed a hand to her forehead, suddenly feeling extremely overwhelmed. “I don’t know.”

 

“Hey.” Kiara reached over, taking Jasmin’s hand in hers, deliberately ignoring how good that felt. “Everything is going to be fine. Jasmin, this is a good thing.”

 

“What if it fails?” What if I can’t handle the pressure? God, why can’t Anni be here? How am I supposed to do this on my own?

 

“Have faith in your designs, sweetheart.” The endearment just slipped out, shocking Kiara. With effort, she schooled her emotions, continuing as if she called everyone sweetheart. “If you start to feel like it’s too much, just remember I’m here.”

 

The tears that were threatening suddenly dried up. Jasmin’s lips quivered slightly, but she managed to give Kiara a small, but grateful, smile. “Thank you.”

 

“Of course.” Kiara slipped her hand away from Jasmin’s. Away from temptation. Only to find herself about to put temptation back into the forefront. “Have dinner with me? We can celebrate you being one step closer to a household name.”

 

Given her options of dinner with Katrin or going home to an empty room, dinner with Kiara sounded divine. “I would love that.”

 

***

 

Jasmin spotted Kiara almost immediately as she walked into the trendy sushi restaurant. She had seen this place many times, but had never been inside. Anni wasn’t much for going on dates, so unless they went to a club with deafening music – which Jasmin loved most of the time – they usually stayed in. Besides, from what she’s heard of this place, it was quite expensive.

 

“This is amazing,” Jasmin said as soon as Kiara stood, gesturing to the chair in front of her. Jasmin took her seat, then looked around again. The establishment was decorated richly in an Asian motif that was both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time.

 

“You look lovely tonight,” Kiara said with a hint of uncharacteristic shyness. Jasmin’s flower print dress was modest, yet sexy. Or perhaps it was just Jasmin that made the dress sexy. Stop it, Kiara chastised herself.

 

Jasmin didn’t seem to notice Kiara’s slight embarrassment as she smiled widely. “Thank you, so do you.” Kiara had changed from her jeans and t-shirt from the beginning of the day into a pair of black slacks, and a pale green blouse that brought out her eyes. “Thank you for inviting me. I know you probably have better things to do.”

 

Kiara opened her mouth to answer just as their waiter showed up at their table. She held up a finger, indicating for him to hold on for a minute. “I should have asked you before, but do you enjoy sushi?”

 

“Love it! Though I’ve never been here, so I’ll need a moment to scan it.”

 

“Good. Would you mind terribly if I ordered for us?”

 

“Oh! Not at all.”

 

Kiara nodded happily. “White wine okay?” At Jasmin’s nod of approval, Kiara ordered. “Two glasses of white, and a sushi boat, please.”

 

The waiter scribbled down the order, letting them know he would be right back with their drinks. He left, giving Kiara an opportunity to get back to their earlier conversation.

 

“In answer to what you said before, no. I don’t have anything better to do. I enjoy spending time with you, Jasmin. You’re intelligent, funny, talented . . . ” she paused again as the waiter came back, setting two glasses in front of them. He scurried away again, and Kiara lifted her glass, touching it to the rim of Jasmin’s wine before bringing it to her mouth. “Beautiful,” she murmured.

 

The quiet word caused Jasmin’s heart to race, her palms to sweat, and her tongue to become tied. She had been flirted with before, of course. However, something in Kiara’s eyes made this entirely different. Jasmin didn’t think she was ready for that, yet.

 

“May I ask you a personal question?”

 

Kiara blinked, switching gears in her head. She had expected Jasmin to say something or to be uncomfortable with her compliment, but instead, Jasmin chose to ignore it. “Of course.”

 

“How old are you?”

 

Kiara, unfortunately, was in the middle of taking a drink when the question was spoken. It took a great amount of effort not to spray her dinner companion in the face. She quickly swallowed, and let out a bark of laughter. “That’s your personal question?”

 

Jasmin smirked, prominently displaying her dimple on her right cheek. “Yes. I tried looking you up,” she confessed. “But I didn’t find anything with your birthday, and it’s driving me crazy trying to guess.”

 

“No one carries my birthdate because I’m a private person. So tell me, what is your guess?” Kiara teased.

 

Jasmin studied Kiara intently, relishing the fact that she could make the normally formidable woman squirm. “Well, with your success I have to believe you’re at least in your thirties. But you don’t look like you are.”

 

Kiara was overly pleased with Jasmin’s assessment, yet almost sorry that she would have to give up her real age. Too old to be thinking of you the way I do, she thought cynically. “I’m thirty-eight, though if you tell anyone that I will deny it. Aging is a model’s worst enemy. Even an ex model.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

Kiara got nothing more from Jasmin than that as the waiter sidled up to their table with their food. She didn’t know whether ‘hmm’ was a good or bad thing, but the small smile gave her a thrill.

 

***

 

Kiara clasped her hands in front of her as she walked Jasmin back to her apartment. Many times she had to catch herself before placing a hand on the small of Jasmin’s back. Or brushing Jasmin’s knuckles with hers as they walked side by side. There was a comfortable silence between them, each lost in their own thoughts. For Kiara, dinner had been quite delightful. She couldn’t remember the last time she had enjoyed someone’s company so much.

 

Despite Jasmin’s age, she was able to hold a conversation covering various topics with ease, without making Kiara feel ‘old’ as others had tended to do. It was an occupational hazard in her industry, and Kiara being an ex-model, she’d had to learn to deal with it. She was beyond relieved not

to have to go through that with Jasmin.

 

“This is me,” Jasmin announced, gesturing to the building in front of them. She was disappointed that the night was coming to an end. Dinner with Kiara had been fun and enlightening. It had been such a different experience than with Anni. Hell, it had been a different experience than with anyone Jasmin had been with. Kiara listened intently to everything Jasmin had to say, and took her seriously. She never once made Jasmin feel immature or stupid. In fact, Jasmin felt like an equal to this very successful business woman. It definitely gave her self-confidence a boost.

 

Kiara tilted her head, looking up at the building. “I’ll walk you up.” She held up a hand, cutting off Jasmin’s denial. “After that dinner, I could use a few more steps.”

 

Jasmin laughed softly, making a show of checking Kiara out. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Her eyes widened as she considered what she just said. Did I really just flirt with her?!

 

It was Kiara’s turn to chuckle. She contemplated teasing Jasmin for the innocent flirtation, but thought better of it when she could see the blush even in the low light. “That’s only because I work at it,” she revealed. “Like walking a beautiful woman up a couple flights of stairs at the end of the night.” I can flirt, too, Ms. Flemming. She signaled for Jasmin to walk ahead of her.

 

Jasmin’s blush deepened, and she ducked her head, leading Kiara upstairs to her apartment. Should I invite her in? Is that too forward? Will she think I want more? Do I? Her head was filled with confusing questions, and before she realized, they were standing in front of her door.

“So . . . ”

 

Kiara smiled gently at Jasmin’s obvious indecision. “Thank you for indulging me, and coming to dinner with me,” she said softly.

 

Relief and disappointment battled each other in Jasmin’s heart. “Thank you for asking. I had a wonderful time.”

 

“As did I. Sleep well, Jasmin. Tomorrow is a big day for you.”

 

“For us, hopefully. I want Tussi Attack to be good for Frida, and for you.”

 

Kiara was flattered. Most people in this business were in it for themselves. They only cared what Kiara could do for them. “I have faith that this will be an amazing pairing for both of us,” she told Jasmin sincerely. “Goodnight, Jasmin.”

 

Kiara didn’t think, she just acted. Before she could stop herself, she leaned in, gently kissing Jasmin on the cheek. She heard the soft gasp of surprise, then felt Jasmin’s hands resting on her hips. Slowly she pulled back, taking in Jasmin’s closed eyes, the quickening of her breath. Perhaps later she will regret this moment, and wonder what made her think it was okay. Or perhaps this one moment would be the one she would remember forever. With that thought, she brushed Jasmin’s lips tentatively with hers.

 

Jasmin’s senses were on overload. The feel of Kiara’s lips, so gentle and soft, took her by surprise. Yet, she couldn’t deny how her body responded. Kiara’s tongue skimmed her lips, and Jasmin answered by opening up to her. As soon as their tongues met, a jolt went through her, and she pushed Kiara away.

 

“I can’t do this.”

 

Kiara turned away. Stupid. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”

 

“Kiara?” Jasmin waited until Kiara faced her. She saw a flash of hurt in those verdant eyes, but it disappeared fast enough that Jasmin wondered if she imagined it. She sighed softly. “I’m in love with someone else.”

 

Kiara nodded. “Your ex-girlfriend? The rocker chick?”

 

“Yes. But I’m not sure if she’s my ex.” Jasmin sighed again. She should invite Kiara in so they can both get comfortable for this conversation. But Jasmin wasn’t sure that was a good idea considering the circumstances. Instead, she opted to sit on the top step of the stairs.

 

Kiara hesitated. Was she sure that she wanted to hear Jasmin talking about loving someone else? Don’t be an idiot. You’re friends. It’s better to have her in your life as a friend than not at all. She sat down next to Jasmin, bumping her slightly. “Tell me.”

 

And, so, Jasmin did. They sat there until their asses were numb, but Kiara listened to every single fear, every single worry, and brushed away every single tear.

 

“I’m sorry,” Jasmin sniffled.

 

Kiara dug around in her purse until she found a pack of tissues. “Don’t be,” she said, offering the pack to Jasmin.

 

Jasmin dried her face the best she could, hoping against hope she didn’t have the puffy, red eyes, and blotchy skin. “I am. I never want to hurt you, Kiara.”

 

The older woman smiled kindly. “Jasmin, you are the kind of woman I could see myself . . . ” she stopped. Don’t tell the woman that just confessed to being in love with someone else that you could fall for her, Kiara scolded herself silently. “I can’t compete with love.”

 

“If it were really love for Anni, she would have called me. We haven’t spoken for weeks.”

 

“I don’t know Anni apart from what you’ve just told me, Jasmin. But I know how hard it is to change who you have been you’re entire life,” Kiara offered, making Jasmin snort with humor and aggravation.

 

“I know how hard it is.” Jasmin looked up at Kiara, her eyes clear now. “I was straight when Anni pursued me.” Kiara’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “It was a stupid bet. Anni was so sure she could get me in bed within a certain time frame. I was so sure I would win that bet, but as time went on it scared me to realize that I wanted it. She won.” Jasmin shook her head. “And, I fell in love with her, heart and soul. It hasn’t been easy. Our relationship has run the gamut from blissful to downright ugly. It shouldn’t be this hard, Kiara.”

 

“Jasmin, you’re both young. I’m assuming Anni is around your age?” Jasmin nodded. “You’re both trying to find out who you are. That’s going to put strain on any relationship. But love is worth the fight. What you both need to figure out is if you want to grow together, or grow apart.”

 

Jasmin stared at Kiara for what seemed like endless moments before speaking. “You are so good for me. Why can’t I . . . ”

 

Kiara pressed a finger to Jasmin’s lips. “Don’t. The one that is good for you is the one that holds your heart. That isn’t me. If you decided to be with me now, you would be settling for something less. I don’t want that for you. And, Jasmin, I don’t want that for me.” Another tear ran down Jasmin’s cheek, and Kiara caught it with her thumb. “Call her.”

 

“I’m afraid,” Jasmin whispered.

 

“Of what?”

 

“I’m scared she’s moved on. I’m scared that she’s happy with someone else. I’m scared to find out if she’s screwing around with different women every night.” The last confession made Jasmin feel nauseous. How could she survive that? And, what kind of hypocrite did it make her when she was just kissing another woman. Yes, she stopped it, but she still responded to the kiss. And, she liked it. A lot.

 

“Fear is a useless emotion, Jasmin. Imagine the things you miss if you stand at your door, afraid to take that first step. The sunrise, nature, beauty,” she said, tucking a strand of hair behind Jasmin’s ear. “Your soul-mate. All of that is out there, but you will never experience it unless you let go of that fear. You’ll never know the answers to your questions about Anni unless you take that first step.”

 

“She hasn’t called me either,” Jasmin pointed out. Perhaps it was childish, but it was true nonetheless.

 

“Whatever is holding Anni back from opening up to you is keeping her from making that step. It may not be fair, but you could be the one that takes that step for both of you.”

 

“And, what if she can’t do this with me?”

 

“Then at least you will know if you need to walk away, or if it’s worth taking the journey together.”

 

Jasmin inhaled a long, calming breath, letting it out slowly in hopes it would quiet her nerves. “I’m sorry about earlier. I don’t want to lose you, Kiara,” she said suddenly.

 

Kiara frowned. “Do you think I’m going to terminate our agreement just because you won’t sleep with me?”

 

Jasmin gasped. “What! No! I meant I don’t want to lose this,” she waved her hand back and forth between them. “I couldn’t care less about the agreement right at this moment. It’s just been a long time since I’ve been around someone who understands me. I can’t lose that.”

 

There was a hint of desperation in Jasmin’s voice that tugged at Kiara’s heart. There is so much there under the surface with you, Jasmin. What happened to you? “I’m not going anywhere. And, if Anni was smart – which I have to assume she is since she fell for you in the first place – but if she was smart, she would fight like hell to get you back and keep you. Because I promise you, if she screws this up, I’m stepping up,” Kiara grinned. She stood up, and dusted off her slacks before holding a hand out to Jasmin. “Call her. Take that step. And, if you need me, you know where I am. Goodnight, Jasmin. For real this time.” Kiara tossed a wink over her shoulder before disappearing down the stairs.

 

Jasmin let out a little laugh. “Take that step,” she repeated. “Easier said than done.” Nevertheless, Jasmin brought out her phone, pressing the first, and only, name in her favorites list before she could chicken out.

 

***

“Anni!”

 

Anni ignored the bellowing of her name, scrolling through picture after picture of Jasmin on her phone. Why haven’t you called? She frowned when she couldn’t figure out who she was asking the question of. Had she expected Jasmin to call as she normally did after cooling off?

Every time Anni hovered over the call button, she could never just pull the trigger and do it. Why? Was she afraid Jasmin wouldn’t answer? Or was she afraid Jasmin would answer, but she would hear a difference in her voice. What if she has moved on? Get real, Anni. It’s only been a few weeks. Jasmin wouldn’t do that. She loves you.

 

“She also broke up with your sorry ass,” she muttered as she scrolled past yet another photo.

 

“Dude! I’ve been calling you.”

 

Anni didn’t have to look up to know who was there. Richelle Kruse or “Cruz” as she was known, slid down the wall next to Anni. She was one of the few women on tour with the group, and had chosen Anni to be her new ‘best friend’. Anni was pretty sure she knew the motivation behind it, but whatever.

 

“I’m busy.”

 

Cruz scoffed, snatching Anni’s phone from her hands. “Busy doing what?” She looked at the cell, eyebrows hiking up to her hairline. “Damn! She’s fucking hot! Who is she?”

 

“Don’t worry about,” Anni snapped, trying to get her phone back. Cruz scrambled out of Anni’s reach, standing up. Anni was irritated, but she would be damned if she let Cruz know something that personal.

 

She studied the other woman with a bored expression. Cruz was the total opposite of Jasmin. She was attractive enough, in a rocker chick kind of way, with her bleached, spiky hair, and pixy face. But she wore too much make-up for Anni’s taste, and there was one huge problem with her. She wasn’t Jasmin.

 

“Hmm. Ex?” Cruz flipped through a couple more photos, sporting a cocky smirk. “Man, what the hell did you do to lose this one?”

 

“What makes you think I lost her?” Anni asked bitterly.

 

“Please. What woman in their right mind would kick this hottie to the curb?” Cruz looked up to see Anni glaring at her. She slipped Anni’s phone into her back pocket, then held up her hands in surrender. “Woah, okay. Forget I said anything. You know what you need?”

 

“I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”

 

“I am. You need to go out, get drunk and have some wild sex. That will help you forget Miss Thing here.”

 

“You offering?” Anni asked sarcastically. Getting drunk and having wild sex was not what Anni needed. Unless it was with Jasmin.

 

Cruz snorted. “I was thinking you should find a stranger. Or two. But I’m willing to sacrifice if that’s what you want.”

 

“It’s not.”

 

“Oh, come on. You know I don’t want a damn relationship. What’s wrong with having a little fun while we’re out here touring?” She toed Anni’s boot with hers. “I guarantee I can make you forget your sorrows.”

 

Anni almost considered it. Since she had left to ‘chase her dreams’, she had been miserable. She had isolated herself from most of the crew, opting out of the frequent parties and outings. Anni had vowed to herself to figure out why she couldn’t open up to Jasmin, but there was always some excuse not to think. That excuse was usually drinking beer by herself in her room. Cruz was not what she needed. Sex was not what she needed. Anni had tried to use sex many times with Jasmin in order to take Jasmin’s mind off of talking – or anything else. That she was good at. And, Anni knew she couldn’t use that anymore if she wanted a long, lasting relationship with the woman she loves.

 

“You’re awfully sure of yourself,” Anni responded dryly.

 

“I am,” Cruz agreed readily. “I may not be great at a lot of things, but drinking and sex? I’ve mastered that.”

 

“I don’t think that’s something to be proud of.”

 

Cruz shrugged, not insulted in the least. “You do this long enough,” she gestured wildly, and Anni knew she meant touring, “you realize that relationships are shit. The only thing you can count on is that there will always be booze, and there will always be someone willing to be ‘the one’ for the night.”

 

Well. If that wasn’t depressing, Anni didn’t know what was. What good is a successful life without someone there to share it with? Not a different stranger every night, but someone who really knew you, and could be genuinely happy for you.

 

I’m an idiot,” Anni grumbled to herself.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Nothing, talking to myself.”

 

Cruz shrugged again. Anni was beginning to think it might be a nervous twitch or something. “Whatever. I’m going to the club. There’s a really great one here. Full of women that just love throwing themselves at rock stars. Even the crew.”

 

“Sounds great,” Anni replied distractedly. She was now focused on what she had to say and do to get Jasmin back. Yes, that meant talking, and yes that will be hard, but Jasmin is worth it. She was so consumed by her own thoughts that she didn’t hear her phone ringing, or recall that Cruz had taken the phone away from her.

 

“Yeah?” There was a long pause at the other end, and Cruz checked the cell to see if the call had dropped. “Hello?”

 

“Who is this?”

 

“The woman that’s about to get laid. Who’s this?” There was no mistaking the dropped call that time. “Weird. Oh shit! This isn’t my phone. Um, Anni, some chick called for you.”

 

Anni’s head snapped up. “What?” She rewound the last couple of minutes in her head. She hadn’t been paying close attention, but she still heard what Cruz had said to the caller. “Oh god!” She clambered to a standing position, lunging for Cruz. “Give me my fucking phone!”

 

“Calm down! Here.”

 

Please don’t let it have been Jasmin. Please, please, please. It was the one and only time she wished that. Unfortunately, her pleas weren’t heeded, and Jasmin’s name came up as the last call. “Fuck!” It took Anni a couple of tries to hit redial with hands that were shaking violently. She cursed again when it went straight to voicemail. “Jasmin! Jasmin please call me back. It’s not what you think! Baby, please, I swear it’s just a misunderstanding!” She hung up, and tried again with the same results. “Goddamn it, Cruz!”

 

“Hey! It was an honest mistake!”

 

“Mistake? Mistake! I swear if you fucked things up for me with Jasmin . . . ” After another attempt with the end, Anni seriously considered throwing her phone at Cruz’s face. I’ll call Ayla. Or Elena. One of them can talk to Jasmin, and get her to talk to me, she planned silently. When her phone buzzed and rang in her hand, it scared the shit out of her and she yelped. “Jasmin!”

 

“Andrea?”

 

Anni looked at the phone as though it grew legs. “Mom?”

 

“Andrea, you need to come home.” There was an urgency in her mother’s voice that Anni had never heard before.

 

“Mom, now is not a good time. I have to get back to . . . ”

 

“Your father is sick.”

 

Anni sucked in a deep breath, a little shocked at the pain in her chest those four words caused. “I’m sure he doesn’t want me there, mother. He would probably just blame me for making him sicker.”

 

“Andrea, you need to come home before it’s too late. Make amends before he . . . ”

 

“Mom? What’s really going on?”

 

“Your father had a stroke, Andrea. They don’t think he’ll recover.”

 

Anni could hear the tears and panic in her mother’s voice, and she was torn between racing to her home to find Jasmin, or going home to say goodbye to the father that hated her. God, she wished Jasmin was with her. She had never needed her as much as she did at this moment.

 

“I’ll get there as soon as I can.” She ended the call, tears threatening to spill over. I can’t do this alone. Please Jasmin. Please talk to me. I need you.

 

To be continued...

 

Read from the beginning by starting with Committed

The Planning (Interrupted) is a small, sad interlude.

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