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Is this love?
“Do you want me to get Baxter on the phone for you Bette?” James asked as he stood in front of Bette’s desk. He knew his boss well enough to know that a valuable piece of art going missing in transit was enough to get her gunning for blood and she tended not to mind whose. Bette counted to 10 and then 20 for good measure – she looked at the clock on her PC – 4:48. The success of the whole plan that she was cooking up with Tina was that they both hit the “marks “they had agreed.
Bette would get her and her mother out of the exhibition by 6:45 at the latest. Tina would delay her arrival with her mother until 6:50. So that meant that she was going to have to get her mother there by 5:45 – say 5:50pm. Mm – so what time to leave to meet her mother?
Bette looked up – she was vaguely aware that James was there but she wasn’t sure why
Bette looked at James
“What about him?”
“Do you want me to get him on the phone?”
Bette picked her coffee cup up and discovered it was empty
“The piece that’s gone astray?”
“No – its only three days late – let’s give it until the end of the week “
James stared at Bette – had she really said that? He shook him head
“What?” Bette asked
“A shipment from this gallery is three days late “he repeated
“I know – we’ll give it until first thing Friday morning and then I’ll go nuts “
James tried to assess if Bette was okay – she was eating – that was usually the first sign of her coming down with the flu. She’d come into the office eating a doughnut and she’d taken a long lunch break. She looked fine – hey she was looking as beautiful and stylish as she always did. The exhibition had been a roaring success and he knew the rough state of the finances of the business so she wasn’t worried. He crossed his arms as she glanced at her watch again and did some internal calculations. She looked up after three minutes to see him still analysing her
“Am I not giving you enough to do James? “she asked dryly
“There is definitely something going on “
Bette raised one eyebrow at him – when he had started working for her that had usually been enough to make him scuttle away. He was made of sterner stuff now and he responded by raising one eyebrow back at her. Bette laughed
“Touché “she said “Now what do you mean that there is something going on?”
“You – I really cannot put my finger on it but there is something amiss with you “
Bette blushed which if it had not shocked him would have made him laugh.
“Oh God – it’s that blonde “
The way Bette smiled shyly told him that for once he had the upper hand on his employer.
“You are delusional James “
“it’s the blonde with the pushy mom – Tina “
Bette reflected that she had as close a relationship with James as she had ever had with a man other than her own father. He knew her so well because they spent so many hours a week working side by side.
“Sit down – you are making me uncomfortable “
“Are you going to tell me the story “
“I won’t tell Alice or Helena “he promised sitting down
“Helena knows that I am interested in Tina – Alice doesn’t know anything. She’s having a torrid affair with the manager of a rock singer who she is also trying to get into bed. I am keeping well out of her way. Mind you – she wouldn’t listen if I told her I was sleeping with The Queen “
“So – Tina and you are getting on well?”
“I went to lunch with her today “Bette shook her head “God James – she’s fantastic “
“And this has only come about because of your mothers?”
“Well your mother has great taste Bette “
“My mother has never met Tina – though that might be the next thing we do to torment them.”
“And they have no idea that the two of you know one another?”
“You planning to tell them?”
“And why would I do that James? We are making them plot and plan and every time they make a plan, we unravel it “
“And you get to spend time with the lovely Tina hatching these counter plots?”
“You ain’t as dumb as you look boy “Bette said in a southern accent
James raised one eyebrow at Bette who laughed
“I can’t help it James – she’s got me hooked – I just “Bette looked for the word to describe how she felt
“You just fancy her?”
Bette shook her head “Its more than that – she makes me laugh and she’s really grounded and she’s smart and yes of course she’s sexy “
“So, what’s stopping you? It was obvious by how she was looking at you the other week when she was here that she fancies you as well. What’s wrong with a dose of the old Porter charm – it’s rarely failed in the past “
Bette puffed out her cheeks “If you say this to anyone else, I will kill you – I will make you suffer in ways that you will not be able to abide “
James nodded “Come on Bette – you know me “
“Yes, and you are frightful gossip “Bette accused
“I don’t really gossip about you – I am saving all my Bette Porter stories until I write a biography of you “
Bette laughed – that was a standing joke between the two of them
“Okay – but be warned James – I am a bad person to cross – especially when I am weighing up the size of your bonus at the end of the month “
“I get a bonus?” James replied
“Yes, and your ability to keep a secret is going to determine whether you get a few dollars or a couple of thousand “
James smiled “You know me Bette – discretion is my watch word “
“You are a screaming queen James – discretion was removed from you long before you started to work for me. But I do need to talk to someone about this “
“I don’t think Helena would stop laughing for a week if I told her this “
James raised both eyebrows
“Tell your Uncle James “
Bette sighed – she needed to articulate this
“The thing is James – I actually think she’s got more power in her little finger than I have in my whole body. There are times when I can hear my heart pounding when I am with her – she’s just the most beautiful woman I have seen ever and I want her in ways that I just cannot articulate. For the first time in my life I am way out of my depth with a woman “
That did render James speechless
“Oh God “he shook his head “You think that you are out of your depth?”
Bette nodded “I swear that I cannot say this to anyone else – I think she’s way out of my league “
“As opposed to the Tony nominated actresses and world-famous models you have been seeing up to now?”
Bette sighed “None of them have made me feel this way. When she walked into the café today “Bette rubbed her face “My heart stopped beating “
James was not believing what he was hearing – was this really the great Bette Porter. He could mock her but despite their teasing relationship he was very fond of her – regardless of her moods and tantrums. To see her floundering was as unexpected as it was sweet.
“You know she is really into you as well “
Bette nodded “She checks me out and it thrills me “
“So far its unspoken?”
“If she made a move on you what would you do?”
Bette smiled “Whatever she wanted me to “
James laughed – was this Bette “I can get any lesbian in New York “Porter? It was and it was only just dawning on her that she had meet her match – this was going to merit a whole chapter in his fictional book on working with B. Porter.
Bette’s confession to James about how she was starting to realise she felt about Tina was on her mind as she stood just inside the doorway of the gallery where she was meeting her mother. Telling James had suddenly made it real – the fact that she was falling for Tina. They had met how many times? That first night at The Paramount and twice more for lunch – three times. Bette couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she was utterly smitten with a woman she had meet three times. But Tina was different – she was charming and had a habit of getting her own way with waiters that Bette was in awe of. She was very sexy – slim, blonde and with an obvious awareness of her sensuality. Bette was trying to put her finger on what it was about Tina Kennard that was not very slowly unravelling her. She was lost in her thoughts when the cab pulled up in front of the gallery and her mother got out.
Bette snapped herself back into the moment and hurried forward with an umbrella to greet Rosemary.
“Hello mom “
They hugged and Bette quickly escorted her inside – she sneaked a look at her watch five to six. She had to get her mother around the gallery while making it all look perfectly natural while at the same time keeping her eye on the time. She could not risk a meeting with Emma and Tina Kennard – a meeting that might potentially end the excuse for having lunch with the young blonde woman.
“How are you darling ?”