Honestly, What are the Odds - 3 (UNEDITED DRAFT)

Ariba held the hat to her head when the helicopters took off.

Hot!

It was ungodly hot. Every so often the wind whipped through and brought a tease of relief.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” Mrs. Kline bumped her with a smile.

She smiled back, but she knew it didn’t wipe the scowl off her face. “Use to my lungs frying every time I inhale? I doubt that.”

Mrs. Kline giggled. “I’m glad you were able to come. This is going to be a fun weekend.”

She wasn’t sure she’d use the word fun. It was work, kind of, right? Besides that she had the added challenge of not thinking about, lookingat , or, god forbid, touching Mr. Wolfe in an inappropriate way. She wasn’t sure why she let the cackling hens at the office get to her, but she didn’t like they whispering. It gave her the chills. That was all she needed. The new black woman at the office must have got her job because she opened her legs. It couldn’t have been because maybe she’s capable, and has a strong work ethic.

They were all following after Mr. Kline until he stopped and addressed the group. He took a deep breath and let it go with a great big smile on his face. “You smell that?”

Everyone sniffed around. Her mouth started to water. She new that smell always the same anywhere. It brought a smile to her face.

“Barbeque.” The man’s smile widened which she was certain wasn’t humanly possible. “I bought this old ghost town and I’m turning it into an experience. Converting the old mines into a B&B and a restaurant. These old buildings will come alive and be attractions, gift shop over there, a theater, and many old west reenactments.” He placed his hands on his hips while he looked at the rotting, falling apart old town below with such pride she was half expecting it to be his child that he spoke so fondly about. “Come on, let’s get a closer look.” They followed him down the ridge into the base where the little town was set up. It looked like it was something right out of the movies.

“We’ll see the mine restaurant coming together for dinner. Before we take a tour of the converted bedrooms, I was thinking something a little competitive and fun. Come on let’s get you out of the sun.

They followed him a little ways to the shadow of a nearby mountain. Set up was a rock climbing set up. She frowned.

Men. She thought. What the hell did rock climbing have to do with who was most qualified to handle the social media security position the man was looking to fill? She would never understand.

“As most of you know, I’m a self made man. Scratching and clawing to the top was a part of my journey, but also strategy and calculated risk.” He paused a bit to address the group. “What some of you might not know, is that I didn’t do it alone.” He stepped to the side to present his wife. “This is the largest contract I’ll be awarding in the history of my business. Integrated into every aspect of the organization that I built from the ground up. A partnership.” He put his arm around his wife. “It was my lady who picked out the first activity for this weekend.”

“Rock climbing.” THe woman said with a wide unnatural smile.

Some of the men starting chattering and removing their suit jackets which she had idea how they were not dying from heat stroke.

“But,” the woman continued. “It won’t be the men climbing today. It’ll be their partners.”

I’m not with him.

Was the first thought that passed Ariba’s mind. Were these people crazy? She was glad that she opted for the tennis shoes. CHatter started around the small group.

“Now before you get all excited there will be two rounds. THe winners of the first two rounds will match off for the win. Come on ladies we’ve got Ms. Simmons and Mrs. Stacey first.”

She tossed a desperate look over her shoulder at Carson who had a look of apology on it. She swallowed and unzipped the light wind suit jacket she had over her cami. Her breath caught when he was behind her helping her.

“You don’t have to do this.”

She presented a smile she didn’t even believe. “It’s okay. If I break my neck you have to take care of my son.” She was only kind of joking.

She smiled despite her nerves when he graced her with a charming smile. “Deal. Just, take it slow and steady.”

“Slow and steady, yeah got it. Am I getting a raise after this?”

He laughed. “How about, if we win this thing you can have whatever you want.”

She smirked back at him over her shoulder and grazed him from head to toe. She frowned and looked forward. She hoped he didn’t take that look the wrong way.

THey hooked her up to the harness and after the other woman was hooked up gave the go.

She was sweating and gross, but it was the final round. She beat the first woman who made it about two steps and fell. Now she was going up against Mrs. Kline who seemed to be an avid mountain climber.

“Slow and steady.” She kept repeating to herself.

“A little twist on this final round.” Mr. Kline announced.

“There will be no harness.”

Come again. Her inner voice said giving the man a dirty look.

“A decade ago my first business tanked and no one was there to catch me, but my lovely wife. She was my safety net and so I will be hers. “Wolfe, assume the position behind Ariba.”

“No.”

“What?”

“We’re not doing this. It’s too dangerous--” Carson paused when Ariba touched his arm. She wasn’t sure why she silenced him.

“It’s okay. Slow and steady.”

He frowned uncertain, unmoved. “There’s nothing to prove. They’ll be other clients.” He leaned in to whisper.

“I know, but I want that “whatever you want” thing that you promised.” His serious gaze loosened when he searched her face bent in mischief.

He took a deep breath and let it go then looked over at Mr. Kline and nodded. He tossed her jacket and his on a rock and took a stance behind her.

Slow and steady. She kept reciting to herself as she ascended the wall. THe other woman was crazy climbing around like she was in Mission Impossible or something. She’d made her way over to Ariba’s side she was a number of steps above Ariba.

Slow and steady. She kept climbing despite the fact that the other woman was beating her. She didn’t look down, she wouldn’t look down. Carson was down there somewhere if she did happen to fall it was okay. She wasn’t going to fall, but if she--

He throat caught up in her chest when she heard the other woman’s loud squeal and a flash of color passed Ariba’s face at a neck break speed. She didn’t think she just grabbed and winced when she felt the partial weight of the other woman pulling her down.

“Oh shit.” The woman said, grasping onto the hand and foot grabs. “That’s not happened in years.”

“Are you okay? Are you secure?”

The woman smiled over at Ariba, “thanks to you, yes.” She looked over her shoulder down to where the others were. “Guess we have a winner.” The woman climbed down quickly.

Ariba still stood there clinging to the wall. She glanced down all the foot and hand grabs looking the same. She never thought she’d have to climb down. How do you climb down? Same way you climb up. No. She argued in her head. Because going down is not going up you can’t just go down the way you came up it’s a different thing altogether. Oh shit. She thought. She was stuck.

“Ms. Simmons, please come and claim your victory.” Mr. Kline yelled.

She smiled and laughed hesitantly. “Uh, well, I seem to be uh unable to uh, move.”

Mrs. Kline had been a very good climber and she almost cracked her skull open. Ariba didn’t care that someone was down there that might catch her. She wasn’t sure how she even helped Mrs. Kline it was instinct. Dangerous. Wolfe was right it was too dangerous. She should have listened why didn’t she? Well because she didn’t want to disappoint him. Maybe she felt like she was making up for stealing from him. Why he gave her a job was still beyond her. It didn’t make sen--

She started when she felt the man’s familiar, heavy presence next to her. Butterflies took off in her insides when she laid eyes on him and it was a most inconvenient situation to be in.

“I’m going to swing behind you.” She clutched tight to the wall. Her breath caught when she looked over her shoulder to find him an inch away from her. He was holding onto hand and foot rungs on either side of her. “Turn around put a leg on either side of me.”

She shook her head her toes hurting from gripping in the same position for an extended period of time.

She paused a breath when she felt one of his hands at her waist. “I'm not going to let you fall.” His voice was so low and so close she looked back at him and found his sure expression. Her eyes fell to his mouth when he spoke and she took note of his facial hair and defined cupid's bow. “Turn quickly and hold on to my neck. You're safe. I gotchu.” He was so goddamn close she couldn't slip past him even if she wanted to.

She closed her eyes and followed his instructions allowing him to guide her into his lap. He leaned back a bit on the harness that held them up then scaled down. She held close less scared and more enjoying the subtle smell of his aftershave and cologne. There was a subtle difference between his scent in the office versus her face nestled in his neck.

Hot

Did she mention it was hot?

He cleared his throat. “We're on the ground now. You can let go.”

She pulled away enough to see he was standing on the rocky ground with her wrapped around him.

“Oh, look at that.” She reluctantly released him and slid down to standing. She glanced up at him from under her lashes to find him gazing down intently at her. His hand still lingered at her waist.

“Ladies and gentlemen we have a winner!” Mr. Kline's voice ripped through their trance commanding attention. “Congratulations Ms. Simmons and thanks for saving my lady’s skin. Come and claim your prize.”

“My prize? What might that be?”

“Why, first pick for seating around the dinner table of course.” He placed his hand on her back and started walking them toward the mine’s opening. “I dare say watching you all climbing in this heat just has me peckish.” He laughed while she shook her head trying not to crack a smile.

 

|:|A/N|:|

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-ALEX

 

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