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Prologue:

“Hoo boy, this’ll be interesting,” Tara mused as she stopped at the doorway of the elegant conference/dining hall. Looking at a sea of faces she didn’t know, but will soon enough, she mustered up her courage and decided to step in. Spotting the bar, the blonde made a beeline for what looked like a row of glasses filled with white wine. “I probably shouldn’t, but…,” she looked around to see most of the other guests with a glass of some sort in their hands. “I could use a little liquid courage.” Putting the glass to her lips, she took generous sip, relaxing a bit as the cool wine spread warmth down her throat to her butterfly-infested stomach. “Well, here goes nothing.” Tara began to walk towards a group of her new co-workers when a voice stopped her.

“Tara! How wonderful, you made it!” It was the University’s Dean, Johnson Riggs. “I was afraid you would miss your first Pre-Term Faculty Happy Hour.”

Tara smiled at the man who helped her get her new position at the University. “Well, my flight did run late, but I made it anyway. Gotta love those little propeller planes, you know, the ones so small that if you remove the outer steps, it tips over on one side. Ugh.”

“Yes, those can be a bit scary, but at least you didn’t have a semi-psychotic flight attendant like I did on my last trip. First off, it looked like she had either applied her makeup with a trowel or she had just come from moonlighting as a rodeo clown. Second, I think she took pleasure in intentionally driving the beverage cart over any feet even millimeters into the aisle. And to top it all off, she was still wearing those giant oven mitts when saying goodbye to all the passengers as they stepped off the plane.” Tara’s expression was priceless as she envisioned the pictures Dean Riggs painted with his words.

“Ok, you win. I’d rather have the little plane.” Tara took another sip of her wine, glad that the Dean found her. ‘A familiar face, thank the Goddess. I wish he’d introduce me to the other faculty,’ she silently hoped.

“Tara, why don’t I introduce you to some of the other faculty members. Get to know them a bit.” Dean Riggs took a gentle hold of her elbow as if to begin walking toward the group, but waited for her answer.

“Yes, that would be great. Thank you.” She smiled at the Dean and let him lead the way. ‘Hey, it worked,’ Tara thought and laughed softly. “I wish for a million dollars.”

“What was that Tara?” The Dean looked at Tara, a bit puzzled.

“Oh! Uh, nothing.” Tara blushed, realizing she had actually voiced her silly request. Hoping that would pacify the confused Dean, she silently berated herself. ‘Nice going, Maclay. Let’s scare the Dean the night before your first official day.’

The Dean laughed. “Ok, well then, let’s get the introductions started.” As they walked up to the group circled around the cheese and cracker table, the blonde took a few deep breaths, preparing herself. Dean Riggs cleared his throat, drawing attention to the group. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet the newest member our University’s esteemed faculty, a Professor of Anatomy and Physiology, Miss Tara Maclay.”

All eyes were on Tara as she waved hello to her fellow faculty members. She couldn’t help but chuckle watching them try to relay a mumbled chorus of “Hmlllo” or “Heympph” through mouthfuls of cheese, crackers and sushi. Tara let them finish chewing before she attempted to address her peers. Once everyone seemed to be food-free, she decided to get it over with. “Thank you. I’m very happy to be a part of this esteemed University. I look forward to meeting and getting to know you all.” The faces in the room smiled warm smiles and motioned for her to join them. Relieved that the introductions were over, she accepted the invitation, walked a few steps closer and reached for a piece of spicy tuna roll.

Over two hours later, Tara was exhausted, if not a bit lightheaded. She’d spent the time getting to know the majority of the faculty members, a good portion of them from the science department. A few she spoke to were quite helpful, perhaps too helpful, as they kept filling up her wine glass, not letting it get even remotely empty. Tara took sporadic sips, but still ended up ingesting quite a bit of the dry chardonnay. She looked at her watch, realized what time it was and began wrapping up the conversation she was in. A few minutes later, the blonde A&P professor bid adieu to her co-workers and headed for the dining hall exit. “Ohhkay Tara, you’re all right to get home. Oh Goddess, home! I haven’t finished unpacking, I haven’t fed the cat, ugh, where is the cat?…I haven’t—OOF!”

If a fly had been on the wall by the dining hall doorway, it would have noticed that one minute, Professor Tara Maclay was occupied with the frenetic energy of her runaway thought process. The next minute, however, the blonde was occupied with something else…a face full of shining red hair, not to mention the fact that she was splayed out on the floor with the owner of that red hair’s limbs entwined amongst her own. “Ow…ow!” Tara tried to move, but couldn’t quite find the leverage to extract herself from what was on top of her.

“Tara! Are you ok? Oh good Lord. What happened?” Tara could hear Dean Riggs run up to the entrance, taking in the scene with a gasp. A couple seconds later, though, she could hear him laughing as he talked to the person, she assumed, who had caused this little accident. “Miss Rosenberg! Goodness, you sure do know how to make an entrance! Are you all right?” Just before Dean Riggs began trying to untangle the two women, Tara was finally able to open her eyes and focus on what, or who, was in front of her.

“Gah!” Tara exclaimed, not expecting to see someone else’s eye so close in her line of vision. The other girl winced at the outburst, but then also focused on the sight in front of her. As the two women’s vision cleared, the equivalent of a hundred blaring trumpets or one giggling doobie-toking Fran Drescher couldn’t have distracted them from the sights in front of them. Crystal blue eyes met piercing green in a trance-like state; their mouths the only things moving, each forming just the slightest of smiles. In the midst of her gaze, she could again hear Dean Riggs talking.

“Tara, can you grab Miss Rosenberg’s hand? I need you to steady her as I pull her up. No one else can get a grip well enough to do it.” Without verbally answering, the blonde simply nodded her head, not breaking eye contact. Feeling around briefly, she located the red-head’s right hand and grasped it.

“Goddess!” The red-head gasped as she felt Tara grab her hand. As if acting as a conductor, the energy exchanging through their unyielding gaze surged, flowing like a circuit through both. But, as quickly as it began, it was over as the Dean and another faculty member gently extracted Miss Rosenberg from her entanglement with Tara.

Once the other woman was steady on her feet, the Dean held out his hand to Tara, who grabbed it and was pulled up off the floor. Despite the loss of proximity, the two women had yet to really look away from each other.

“Miss Rosenberg, Miss Maclay, are you ladies all right? Do you need anything? Are you hurt?” Both women shook their heads without glancing at the Dean.

Confused, Dean Riggs figured they were staring because the women didn’t know each other. “Oh! Yes, well, let me make some introductions. Tara, this is Professor Willow Rosenberg of the Psychology department. Willow, this is Tara Maclay, Professor of Anatomy and Physiology.”

“Tara…” Willow breathed, clasping Tara’s hand to shake it.

“Willow…” Tara responded, again feeling the rush of electricity as their hands touched again.

End Prologue
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