posted on 16-Jun-2002 2:47:24 PM by carenicoleIQ
Title:Only Time
Author: Carenicole
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Jason Katims etc.. I’m borrowing and using them in a different capacity. One that doesn’t suck. The music is provided courtesy of ENYA and the idea is based somewhat on the movie Sweet November. I didn’t like the movie so this is my own version. A better version. One with happy ending insurance guaranteed.

Summary: Max is a business man that only has time for work and doesn’t really take time for other things in life. He runs into Liz (literally) and sparks fly. A proposal is made and he agrees to spend the month with Liz, no work allowed. I won’t say anymore so that I don’t spoil it for you.

AN: Sorry it's been so long with this story. I wanted to post a new part and thought I'd better repost the whole thing. Hope you guys enjoy! Thanks.
Carey


Only Time

Chapter 1


“Dammit, I really don’t have time for this,” Max Evans swore into his phone as he drove twenty miles over the speed limit, trying to get to work on time.

“Sorry to inconvenience you, Max. I’ll tell my immune system that next time it needs to check with you first before it gives into any evil bacteria or germs.” There was an exaggerated sigh. “For GODSAKE Max! You can go to the grocery store and pick up the food yourself. And as for work, just call in and tell Susan you’re running late. Then tell her that she needs to take your phone calls today. Now, my stomach is telling me to make friends with the porcelain gods.”

Click. Maria Deluca’s voice was gone. Max stared at his cell phone. His day was officially shot to hell. One of the most important meetings of his career was this afternoon and his assistant had the flu. Which meant that now he had to do everything. He couldn’t trust anyone else to take care of things. He’d have to set up the conference room himself and pick up the food himself. How was he going to find time to pick that up? Maria had said it would be all ready, but he still had to go out of his way on a day when time was of the utmost importance.

He’d have to do it now too, despite his already increasing lateness. He wouldn’t have time to leave the office later. He still wanted to go over everything for the presentation one more time. Getting the Whitman account meant a lot to him. Alex Whitman’s computer company was one of the movers and shakers and if he could be the one in charge of their advertising campaign well, he’d be set for a long time.

Max glanced at his watch. It was just after eight thirty in the morning. He could do this. He had time. He could still get to the office by nine. Then he’d work straight through lunch and make Susan hold all of his phone calls.

No problem.

When he finally pulled up to the store Maria had directed him to, he was surprised to see how packed it was so early in the morning. Looking for a spot up close, he parked the car in a handicapped space and jumped out quickly. With hurried steps he entered the store and headed toward the bakery section. There was a small line of people there that he barely noticed as he move directly to the front counter.

He got the attention of the woman working there. “I’m here to pick up an order for....damn. It’s either under Deluca or Evans. My assistant placed it a few days ago. It’s supposed to be ready,” Max told the woman. She didn’t say anything but took her time as she made her way to the back to check.

While he was waiting Max called into Susan and gave her instructions for when he got there. He’d just hung up when his phone started to ring. He flipped it open. “Evans,” he said quickly.

“Max, hey, just so you know, the order is under Deluca,” Maria’s voice said.

“Yeah, I got it. I’m in line at the store now,” he told her.

“See now it wasn’t that hard was it. Oh, and hey don’t forget that you have that meeting with Valenti this morning at ten. He wants to talk to you about something important before you pitch the ad this afternoon,” her voice sounded tired as she spoke.

“Shit,” Max muttered. He had forgotten all about Valenti. He heard someone clearing their throat, making him glance up and into a pair of warm chocolate brown eyes. They looked impatient. Max looked away quickly. “Anything else?” he asked Maria, hoping she’d say something to make him feel better.

“Nope. Don’t worry, Max. You’ll survive.” She hung up then. Max put the phone back into the inside pocket of his suit jacket. His eyes met those warm brown ones again and he allowed himself to really look at their owner.

She was short and petite with olive skin and long, dark brown hair. And despite the fact that she looked completely annoyed with him, she was beautiful.

“You always butt into line in front of people who have been waiting more than fifteen minutes for service?” she asked, raising an eyebrow accusingly.

“I’m in a hurry,” was Max’s automatic response.

“Oh, well in that case, go right ahead. It isn’t like the rest of us have anywhere else to be today,” came the woman’s sarcastic remark.

Max opened his mouth to say something in his defense but didn’t get the chance. The woman behind the counter came back with his order. “There you go. Order for Deluca,” she said.

Max took the box of pastries and quickly turned to leave.

“You know in some cultures it’s polite to say Thank You,” that woman’s voice called after him. He glanced back and once again his eyes met hers. They weren’t angry or even annoyed anymore, they looked almost.....amused? Max was so caught up in staring at her that he walked right into an older woman’s shopping cart.

“Hey, watch it young man,” the woman said snapping his attention to the forefront. After apologizing briefly he decided he’d better hi-tail it out of there before he ran into or offended anyone else. He finally made it through the lines to pay and hurried out to his car. There was a parking ticket displayed prominently on the window.

He snatched it up and shoved it into his pocket. He had to get out of here now. He was almost an hour late. He put the car into reverse and backed out, not even bothering to look.

The sound of metal hitting metal reached his ears and the jolt of the impact made him his his knee on the the underside of the dash. He’d have a bruise for sure. Damn, could this day get worse? He put the car in park and shut the engine off. Swearing under his breath he got out of the car. As he did so he turned around slowly.

There she stood, arms crossed, nostrils flared with anger and those damn piercing brown eyes. “Have you no consideration for anyone?” she asked angrily.

“Look, I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking....” he paused and then turned his back to her. He pretended to survey the damage while he tried to get himself under control. As he really looked over things he was relieved to see that his car had come out unscathed. The woman’s car had not been so lucky. There was a huge dent in the door on the driver’s side. It was a good thing he hadn't been going any faster. She could have really been hurt.

“Do you have your phone?” she asked suddenly coming up behind him. He stood up from where he’d been kneeling by his back bumper, and turned around. He found himself staring at the top of her head. She was too short to be face to face. Max bit back a smile despite himself. This small woman had already put the fear of god in him from inside the store. He’d hate to see her wrath.

“Yes,I have my phone. Why?” he asked, taking a step away so he could look at her face.

“To call the police. That would be normal accident procedure would it not?”

“No....I don’t have time for that and besides if we do that, my insurance will go up... Look, I’ll give you my business card and when you find out how much it costs to fix the car, you can call me and I’ll pay for everything.” Max pulled out one of his business cards and handed it to her. She took it and examined it closely.

“Max Evans of Valenti advertising. Oh, you’re one of those types aren’t you?” she shook her head as if she felt sorry for her.

Max was no longer contemplating this woman and his strange and completely unwarranted attraction to her. He was starting to get annoyed himself. “Now can you move your car? I’m past being late for work.”

She looked at him hard for a moment and then without a word made her way back to the car. She took her time getting in and getting herself situated. Then with a wave and a smirk she started the engine and drove off.

*****

Liz Parker pulled up to the small rundown apartment complex and parked the car. She grabbed the two bags of groceries sitting next to her on the front seat and made her way inside.

“Michael,” she hollered as she entered the apartment. “Michael, I brought your groceries.”

A tall, wild-haired gentleman appeared from a room towards the back of the apartment. His clothes were disheveled and streaked with paint from when he’d casually wipe his hands on them. “Liz, thank you, thank you. You’re a lifesaver,” he told her with a wide grin.

“Oooh what kind am I today?” she asked, her voice teasing.

“I’d say today, you’re bordering on being the butterscotch kind of lifesaver.”

“Wow, this is serious then. You only use butterscotch when you’re really desperate.” They both chuckled at their private joke. When they’d been in high school together, an ex-girlfriend of Michael’s had once told him he was lifesaver. Not just any kind. A butterscotch lifesaver. When he’d asked what she meant she’d repeated herself. “You’re a lifesaver, butterscotch because their my favorite.” Liz had made fun of that for years. So now anytime they said that, the level of being saved depended on the kind of lifesaver.

“Seriously, though,” Michael went on. “This new series of paintings that I’m working on, well, they’re killing me.” He grabbed for something in one of the bags, making a face when he pulled out a bunch of bananas. “What kind of shit is this? Health food? You’ve got to be kidding?”

Liz shook her head. “You’ve got terrible eating habits. I’m going to get you healthy and train you right for some lucky woman to come along and snatch you up,” Liz told him with a smile.

Michael’s tone took on that of an indignant child. “I don’t want to be healthy or trained for that matter. I like my life, thank you very much. I like junk food, I like my messy apartment and I like my state of disarray.”

“Okay, fine, I get it. I just wish you would find yourself a nice girl. That’s all.” Liz pulled a yogurt out of one of the bags and grabbing a spoon, sitting on the kitchen counter to eat.

“So I think I found my new project,” she said as she took a spoonful of the yogurt in her mouth.

“Whoa, wait a second. I thought after the last little fiasco you’d decided to give that up,” Michael said pointedly.

“Oh, please that was nothing,” Liz tried to brush it off. “Besides, this one’s different. He’s sort of an asshole and yet I can just tell that he’s looking for something else. He’s just very....I don’t know, all over the place.” Liz chuckled slightly and smirked as she went on. “He ran into your car at the grocery store. Backed right into me.”

Michael obviously wasn’t listening very well. He was still back aways. “Liz, I would hardly call being stalked by Doug Shellow nothing.......Did you just say someone hit my car?”

Liz smiled and nodded. She hopped down from the counter. “Don’t worry. He said he’d pay for the damage. As a matter of fact I’m going to go and see him right now. This time I’ll take the bus though.” She gave Michael a peck on the cheek and was out the door. He stood there eating a banana, shaking his head.


Chapter 2

Max sat in Jim Valenti’s office, waiting impatiently. He glanced at his watch again. It was almost 11 am. He’d been sitting there for almost an hour and had yet to see anything of his boss. He was just about to get up and leave when the door to the office opened and Valenti hurried in.

“Sorry to keep you Max. The wife was on the phone earlier this morning. She’s been visiting some friends of hers back east and she made me late for another meeting trying to tell me all the latest gossip.” He shook his head and laughed as if he was recalling the conversation. He sat down and adjusted his tie, giving Max a smile.

“How long have you been with us here Max?” he asked. Max sat up a little straighter in his chair.

“Uh... going on five years sir,” Max replied.

Valenti nodded and sat back, relaxing a little in his chair. “And in that five years you’ve proved to be tremendous asset. You’ve always got new ideas that seem to put a fresh spin on things. And you work hard. You probably thought that no one noticed all those late hours you put in. But we notice. I notice.”

“Thank you sir. My work’s very important to me,” Max told him.

Once again Valenti nodded. He appeared to be contemplating Max. “Do you have a family Max? A wife? Maybe a girlfriend?”

“Uh, no sir. I don’t.”

“Oh. I see. A boyfriend then?”

Max felt his face turn red. “No uhm.... I like women sir. I just don’t have one at the moment. Too busy.”

Valenti laughed. “Well, you never know these days,” he said, brushing off his earlier implication. “So what I hear you saying is that you’re just focusing on your career now?” Valenti turned in his chair and looked out the window as he spoke.

“Yes sir.” Max watched Valenti nod his head.

There was a pause. “Is there a particular reason that you needed to meet with me?” Max finally asked.

“You can call me Jim, Max. Everyone else does.”

“Okay, Jim.” Max looked expectantly at his boss.

Valenti finally faced Max again and sat forward in his chair, resting his hands on the desk. “I just wanted to let you know that I noticed all the hard work you’ve been doing for us. And if all goes well today, as I’m sure it will, I’m going to offer you a promotion. And with that I’m going to tell you take some time off. Then when you come back it will be to a new, bigger office and bigger accounts.”

“That would be.....that would be fantastic, sir, uh, I mean Jim. But the time off wouldn’t be necessary. I could get started on any new accounts right away and....” Valenti cut Max off.

“Let’s get through this afternoon’s pitch and then we’ll see what happens. Okay? Now get your ass out of here and go get yourself ready to wow Whitman with your ideas.”

He didn’t have to tell Max twice. He hurried back to his office. He had lots to go over before the meeting. There was even more riding on this than he’d thought.

***********

The bus ride downtown took Liz about a half hour. Then it took another twenty minutes to walk over to Valenti Advertising. When Liz arrived she did a quick appraisal of the building. It was typical. Inside was a bustle of activity amongst some very expensive decorating. There were people milling around in the front lobby. A security guard by the front entrance caught Liz’s gaze. He smiled shyly at her and she tried not to laugh. She made her way over to where he was standing guard. He was more than willing to give her directions to Max’s office.

Max was on the third floor. Liz bypassed the elevator and took the stairs two at a time. She needed the exercise, she told herself. When she got to her destination she was surprised by the change in atmosphere. This floor was quiet and people were hard at work. There wasn’t a whole lot of bustling around. Everyone was busy. Liz finally stopped someone and made them give her more directions. When she finally reached his office, Max was nowhere to be found.

She stood out in front of the door, hoping maybe his assistant would show up and tell her to go on in. When this didn’t happen she let herself in and settled into the chair opposite his desk. She figured it was probably after 11 am. Liz surveyed the room. It was moderately sized with brand new furniture and state of the art computer equipment on the desk. There were also papers everywhere. There were sketches pinned to the walls. A couple of poster ads as well.

Liz hadn’t been waiting long when the door to the office burst open, followed by a string of expletives as Max stubbed his toe. Liz held back a giggle. She stood up in her chair and faced him. Liz watched as his handsome features changed expressions and he did a double take.

“How did you get in here?” he asked.

Liz smiled. “The security guard gave me directions,” she said with a shrug. “There was no one at your assistants desk so I just came in and sat down. Now, I believe we have something to discuss.”

“I can’t, not now. I’ve got an important ad to pitch later this afternoon and I have things to get ready.” He wasn’t even looking at her anymore, he was shuffling things around his desk.

“Well, then, how about tonight. You can come over to my place and we can discuss my not calling the insurance company over dinner.” She flashed Max a big smile as his gaze finally shot up to meet hers.

Max wasn’t sure what to say. Was she asking him on a date? He hadn’t been on a date in a long time. It had to have been months. No make that a year at least. And his sister had set the whole thing up. That had been a disaster. For a moment he contemplated whether he really had time for this.

“Alright, fine. Give me your address and I’ll be there at seven.....to discuss the car situation,” he told her. He tried to make his voice sound less eager than he felt.

Liz grabbed the first piece of paper she saw and wrote her address out Capping the pen, her gaze met his momentarily. She looked at him carefully as if she was studying him. She flashed him another smile and turned to leave.

“Wait,” Max said. “What’s your name? I didn’t catch it before.”

“Probably because I didn’t tell you before. It’s Liz, Liz Parker.” She paused. “I’ll see you tonight at 7 pm Max Evans.” And then she was gone. Max stared at the empty doorway for a moment before his mind shifted back into gear. Work. He had work to do.

The bus ride back to Liz’s beach front condo was
spent planning. It was March 23. That meant that Liz had a week to get ready. That was if he agreed. Liz sighed. April. He would be the last one. The biggest challenge by far. She was more than up for that challenge. A small part of her was dreading this. Somehow she knew that after Max Evans everything would change.


(cont. in next post)

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Jun-2002 3:00:45 PM ]
posted on 16-Jun-2002 2:52:32 PM by carenicoleIQ
**************
“I have to say that I’m impressed, Mr. Evans. I wasn’t expecting this kind of thoroughness for this presentation. You’ve exceeded my expectations.” Max was rewarded a huge grin from his new client. “You’ve got our account, that’s for sure.”

Max wasn’t sure what to feel when he heard this. Relieved, excited and maybe a little let down. Everything had built up to this point and now he felt sort of deflated. He pushed these feelings aside and set to work finalizing things with Alex Whitman. Valenti had sat in on the meeting and before he’d left had mouthed the word “Promotion” to Max.

“Now, Max...... may I call you Max?”

“Sure.”

“Good, call me Alex. Now, look Max. Here’s the deal. This new software we’ve got coming out, it’s only the first of many things. I want this ad to start running as soon as we can get it all produced. And I want you to start working on something for our next release. It’s not for another six months but if could have something for me by the first week of May, that’d be great. I won’t be back in town until then. So if you need to get a hold of me you can call my office and someone will put you through.” Alex glanced at his watch. “Damn I gotta go. My flight leaves in an hour. I’m not rich enough to have my own jet yet,” he joked, “So I still have to show up early for flights. These airlines just don’t care who you are. They tend to leave you behind when you’re late.”

They two men shook hands. After Alex had left Max went back to his office and sat down. The let down feeling he’d had before was starting to really sink in. He should be jumping up and down for joy, celebrating his success. It just didn’t seem worth it though. Something was missing.

The afternoon seemed to drag on for Max. There wasn’t really any follow up work to do on the Whitman project anymore. The next week the TV ad would be shot and then the print ads would be made up. He wasn’t needed for anything else at the moment. Max decided to clean up his office. As he was gathering up the loose papers on his desk, he came across Liz Parker’s address. His mind began to think about his dinner plans for the evening. He wasn’t sure what to think of Liz. Was she being forward and asking him out? Or was this really about the car? If she was asking him out, it was a completely new experience for him. Sure, he’d been out with plenty of women. He’d had his fare share of girlfriends in college. But he hadn’t done any dating for a long time. He hadn’t done anything but work.

Max stayed at the office until it was after six pm. He didn’t even bother going back to his apartment. He spent as little time there as possible. The office was his home.

*********

Liz set the table for two and lit the candles. She smiled at her mismatched sets of china and silverware. It probably looked odd to everyone else. But she liked the contrast. Her table was positioned underneath a large window that let you look out at the ocean. She liked to sit there and work. The movement of the waves in the water always had a calming effect.

Liz glanced over at the opposite wall and quickly went to fix one of the crooked pictures. The whole wall was covered in paintings that Michael had done. He’d given them to her over the years. They were usually the ones he discarded for some reason. Either that or he couldn’t bear to sell them. There was a large contrast in the collection, which had grown quite large.

She backed away from the wall and examined it. She’d just put up his latest throw away piece. Half of it was still unfinished. It had started as her portrait. In fact, you could see the original sketch on the canvas. Liz hadn’t let him finish it though. She’d only agreed to let him do it if the painting was abstract. He’d told her he’d try it that way, but hadn’t been able to finish. “I can’t capture you in the abstract form Liz. When I see you, I see perfect lines and curves and shapes and colors. I can’t distort you.” When she had heard this her response had been, “Well then, you can’t paint me at all.” So now this unfinished work had been added to her collection.

Liz looked over her table setting again. It wasn’t going to get any better. She went into the kitchen to check on dinner. It smelled good. She took that as a sign that project Max Evans was going to start out well.

It was almost 7 pm. She wondered briefly if he’d be able to find the place okay. The phone rang and Liz glanced around trying to find it, finally lunging over the couch when she registered that the sound was coming from beneath a cushion.

“Hello?” she said breathlessly.

“So I just saw my car,” the voice on the other end said. Michael.

“And?” Liz asked biting back a smile. She felt a little bad about the whole car thing.

“And? That’s all you have to say is And?” He was talking and chewing at the same time. Liz thought she could hear crunching noises. The distinct sound of a crinkling bag could be heard in the background.

“Michael, what are you eating?” Liz asked curiously.

“Don’t change the subject, Liz,” Michael started.

“You’ve got chips!” Liz exclaimed. “I know that I didn’t buy those for you. Where did you get them?” she demanded.

“Liz, I love you, I really do. And I appreciate
your efforts at trying to keep me healthy. But honestly. Did you really think I was going to actually eat all of that healthy shit you bought me? After you left, I made a decision to never let you grocery shop for me again and then I took a break from my creative frenzy to go get some real food,” Michael explained.

Liz sighed with mock disappointment.

“So, is your new project there yet? When’s he coming?” Michael asked.

Glancing at the clock, Liz sighed again. It was ten after 7 pm. “He was supposed to be here ten minutes ago. Maybe he’s not going to show.” She tried to keep her disappointment out of her voice.

“It’s probably better this way Liz,” Michael said. His voice sounded a little sad and Liz immediately changed the subject before they started talking about things that she couldn’t handle at this particular moment. They talked a few minutes longer before saying their goodbyes for the evening.

Liz put the phone in its charger and went to blow
out the candles on the table. She was on her way into the kitchen to put away the dinner when she heard a quiet knock at the front door. She hurried out to the front entrance and answered the door, smiling brightly when she saw him standing there.

“You came.....”
********

Chapter 3

Max swallowed and nodded reflexively. She was even more lovely than he’d remembered. Her mesmerizing eyes sparkled as she smiled at him. She was dazzling to say the least.

“Come in,” she told him opening up the door and gesturing inside. Max entered, taking in his surrounding and his hostess at the same time. The condo was fairly homey. It was almost cozy in fact. The whole place was personalized with pictures and paintings everywhere. They seemed to speak volumes about their owner. Each wall was a work of art in and of itself, telling its own story. There was one littered with pictures and among the pictures were different months torn from a calender. Max took a step toward the wall, his curiosity piqued. He wanted to explore the whole place, just to see what else there was.

“I was just about to give up on you,” Liz’s voice
said, breaking through his thoughts.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Max said, giving her an apologetic smile. “I got caught up.....”

“Let me guess. You got caught up at work right?” Liz interrupted.

“Actually no. Just traffic and then I sort of got a little lost,” he admitted.

Liz laughed. “At least you’re honest,” she told him. “Come sit down. I bet you’re hungry and it just so happens that dinner is ready.” She showed Max to his seat and went to get the food. She talked while she was in the kitchen.

“So Max, tell me about yourself,” she hollered out amid the clinking of kitchenware.

“There isn’t much to tell,” he replied back.

Liz came out of the kitchen then and setting two plates of food in front of them, sat down herself. “Somehow I don’t believe that. I bet if I asked you about work you could talk for hours,” she stated.

Max tried not to openly stare at her. She seemed so unaware of her own appeal as she sat there sucking a single spaggetti noodle into her perfect mouth.

Max finally found his voice to respond to her. “ I probably could, but I’d bore you to death. I know that much.”

“Well at least tell me what you do exactly. I know you work for Valenti advertising. Tell me a little about it.” Another noodle slipped passed her lips and Max had to force himself to look away. What was his problem? Had he never watched another person eat before? Truthfully he probably hadn’t eaten a meal with someone in a long time. To distract his thoughts from their current direction Max started talking about his job. He went over what he did and gave her some examples of his work. Surprisingly enough, Liz looked interested. When he finished telling her about work she smiled.

“Okay, so now, tell me about you. The you that isn’t work,” she said as she took a sip of her wine.

“Well, I’m originally from Roswell, New Mexico. My parents still live in the area. They have a law firm there. My sister Isabel, who happens to be my twin, lives there and runs an alien themed cafe called the Crashdown.” He paused, looking thoughtful, “That’s pretty much it.”

“No. There’s got to be more than that. How did you end up in Newport?” she asked. Her eyes gave away her curiosity.

“I don’t know. After college, I was looking for a job. My roommate in college, Kyle Valenti got me an interview with his dad’s business. I got the job, started out as an assistant for one of the big wigs and I’ve worked my way up from there. That’s the last five years of my life in a nutshell.”

Now Liz looked frustrated. “Don’t you have any friends? Do you have a serious girlfriend or anything? There has to be more to your life than work. Tell me you have a pet at least. Say that and I’ll feel better,” she said in earnest.

Max couldn’t help but laugh as he shook his head. “Sorry, no pets. I’m never home enough to look after one.”

Liz shook her head. “How sad.”

******

“No,” he said quickly.

“Oh, come on. Do it again, please?” Liz’s voice begged. “It was really good.”

Max looked at her for a second and then curled up his lip saying, “Thank you, thank you very much,” in his best Elvis impersonation.

Liz immediately burst into laughter. For a moment she was unable to talk and Max enjoyed the beauty of her face as it lit up with her mirth.

Dinner had long since been over with. It was a good thing. Max had had a difficult time focusing on anything she was saying. He was too busy watching her eat. He hoped she hadn’t realized the reason for his distraction. He honestly couldn’t remember ever being this drawn to someone. The second he had seen her when she’d opened the door, he’d even forgotten his reason for being there to begin with. They were sitting on her sofa now, talking. Liz’s feet were drawn up, partially underneath her and she sat facing him. One of her arms rested casually on the top of the couch. Max’s own position mirrored hers. He wasn’t sure what time it was. He didn’t even care. He just knew that this was the most fun he’d had in a long time.


The evening ended before either of them really wanted it to. But Max had to go to work early the next morning and Liz still had to clean up what was left of
their dinner.

Max stood at the door as Liz saw him out. “I had a really good time tonight,” he told her with a smile.

“Yeah. Me too.” Liz’s own smile mirrored his. As she looked up into his face her eyes met his and she felt herself being pulled into their amber depths. She hadn’t felt this drawn to someone since......well, maybe never. Max had been exactly what she’d thought. He was smart and funny and incredibly sweet. He just hadn’t had the opportunity to practice those skills in a long time. Once she’d gotten him to open up a little he’d actually had more on his mind than just his job.

Max fought the urge to reach out and touch her hair. It looked so soft and the way the light seemed to create a halo around her just seemed to stir up feelings that Max had long since explored. “I’m glad that I ran into you today,” he admitted somewhat sheepishly. Liz laughed, making Max’s smile grow brighter.

“Tell that to my friend Michael. It’s his car,” Liz told him.

Max’s smile faded momentarily.

“You mean...”

“Yeah. Uhm....I sort of tricked you. I just wanted to get you here.” Before Max could respond, Liz leaned up and pressed a soft kiss to his mouth. “Good night, Max.” With that she pushed him outside and shut the door.

Max stood there for a moment, just staring at the door in front of him. He wasn’t sure whether to be upset or very flattered. As he drove home he settled on just being confused. One thing was for sure though, Liz Parker was something else.

*****

After Max left Liz quickly got on the phone to Michael.

“Hey cheese head, guess what?” she said into the phone, not even bothering to say hello.

“No. I won’t guess. It’s one in the damn morning Liz. Go to bed like the rest of the world,” Michael told her. Liz just rolled her eyes and went on.

“So he’s perfect. I mean really perfect. This is actually going to be easier than I’d first thought. He’s attached to his work only because he doesn’t have anything else. His family is in New Mexico so they’re really too far away to be a part of his everyday life. Once I show him how to open up a bit and get him to start putting himself into fun situations.....I think he’ll be cured of his workaholic status,” Liz concluded.

“Great. Now maybe you can tell me the rest of the details tomorrow. Say sometime after noon. When I’m not sleeping,” Michael said with a yawn.

“Fine. Go back to sleep. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

After hanging up the phone Liz got herself ready for bed. But she couldn’t sleep. She was too excited about her new project.


Chapter 4

“So obviously you were able to survive yesterday without me,” Maria said as she brought Max’s coffee into him the next morning.

“Just barely,” Max told her with a small smile. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“Sure....so tell me how everything went. Did you ‘WOW’ Whitman?” she asked, taking a seat in the chair across from Max’s desk.

“It went well. Alex is really nice. He’ll be great to work with,” Max said. “What about you though? Are you feeling better? You sounded awfully sick on the phone yesterday.”

“Oh...I’m much better. It’s amazing what a days rest and a good nights sleep will do for you,” Maria told him trying to keep the smile off her face.

“Ha! I knew it! You weren’t really sick at all. I should fire you for doing that to me,” he said. “But I won’t because....”

Before Max could finish the sentence the door to his office opened. “Hey Max!” Liz said as she walked in. She stopped walking when she saw Maria. “Oh...am I interrupting?”

“No...Liz. It’s okay,” Max said quickly, not wanting her to leave. He stood up from his chair.

Maria raised her eyebrows in interest. This was certainly a new development. Max Evans getting up from his desk for a lady. He was practically falling all over himself.

“Liz, this is my assistant Maria Deluca. Maria this is Liz Parker. We sort of had a run in yesterday,” Max explained as he introduced the two women. He could feel his cheeks growing warm at the thought of yesterdays events.

Liz immediately stepped forward towards Maria. Extending her hand and flashing a big smile she said, “It’s nice to meet you Maria.”

Maria stood up and shook Liz’s hand. “You too. I think you must be the reason that Max is in such a good mood today.”

Liz laughed at this. “Yes well you can probably take partial credit for that then. I believe that you’re the reason Max ran into me in the first place.”

Max watched the scene with interest, trying to pretend that he wasn’t embarrassed. Before they could go any further, he cleared his throat, interrupting their discussion. “Maria don’t you have some work to do? Maybe you could go...”

Maria smirked knowingly. “Oh sure. Just holler if you need anything. Your wish is my command.”

Liz smiled at Maria as she left. As the door shut she turned her attention on Max. “ I know how you stay sane now. Maria seems great. I’m sure she keeps you on your toes.”

Max nodded his agreement. “Yeah. There’s certainly never a dull moment with her around. She’s sort of the life of the ...er..office.”

“Seems that way,” Liz said.

Max found himself staring at Liz once again. She was just about as mesmerizing this morning as she had been the night before. Shaking himself from his thoughts he spoke. “So to what do I owe the pleasure?”

Another beautiful smile was bestowed on him.

“ I just wanted to see you again. I thought that maybe we could go and get lunch of something.”

“Lunch isn’t for another,” Max glanced at his watch. “Not for another three hours.”

Liz shrugged. “It’s no big deal. I’ve got plenty of things to do to kill time until then. So what do you say? Will you go?”

Max thought for a moment, mentally rearranging his schedule for the day. “Okay, sure. Why not?” He finally agreed. He was secretly thrill by her forwardness.

“Great! I’ll meet you here at 12:30 then.” Before he knew what was happening, Liz had closed the distance between them and her lips were brushing against his cheek. He could feel sparks where they made contact. He couldn’t help the grin that snuck onto his face as he watched Liz leave. A grin the that would stay there the rest of the day.

He buzzed Maria over the speaker. “Cancel my lunch appointment with Kyle today, Maria. And anything else that’s after lunch as well.” Max told her.

“Sure,” Maria said. There was a brief pause and then the door to his office was once again flung open as Maria bounded into the room. “So....do you have special lunch plans? Huh? Do you? With Liz? Oh...I knew it! You LIKE her! And you’re smiling. You haven’t smiled like that since I slipped rum into your coke at the office Christmas party. Yay! You aren’t a work hermit after all!” Maria said animatedly all in about one breath.

(cont. next post)
posted on 16-Jun-2002 2:57:33 PM by carenicoleIQ
All Max was able to do was chuckle at her antics. He tried to look serious but failed. “If I promise to tell you all about it over coffee this morning will you go call Kyle like I asked?”

“Okay...fine. But details, Max. I want all of the details,” she insisted.

Max found himself unable to concentrate the rest of the morning. He kept think about Liz and where he would take her. He even had Maria make lunch reservations for them. Then he’d had to listen to her gush for about five minutes. Maria’s coffee break had turned into a gab session between her and Max. He told her everything that happened. The grocery store....the parking lot. Then dinner.

“ I like her,” he admitted. “There’s just something about her.”

Maria had practically squealed. “I’m so excited for you. And just think...pretty soon you’ll be getting married and having babies and....”

“Whoa! Maria...don’t you think you’re jumping the gun a little. I mean...we had one dinner together. Now we’re just going to do lunch. I don’t think Liz is ready to mother my children quite yet.”

“No...but it’ll happen. Mark my words. It will happen.”

When 12 o’clock finally came, Max could barely sit still. He’d sat in his office after coffee thinking about Liz some more. He thought about marrying her. Having kids with her. Then he cursed Maria for putting ideas he wasn’t ready for into his head. Eventually he’d been able to put Liz thoughts aside and finish the paperwork for the Whitman account. Then Valenti had called him to set up a meeting for later on in the week to discuss Max’s new position. He wasn’t really concerned about that though. He was too busy worrying about getting his tie straightened. He was just about to call Maria in when Kyle Valenti entered the office instead.

“What’s this I hear about you canceling our lunch plans, Evans?” Kyle teased.

“Sorry Kyle. Something came up at the last minute....” Max started to explain.

“Yeah.. Maria told me all about it when she called me earlier. So naturally I knew I had to make my way over here to see what all the fuss was about.”

At those words Max looked a little panicked. Kyle had said the exact same thing to Max in college over a girl named Jennifer Brown. Max had been dating her at the time, but all it had taken was one brief meeting and Max had lost her to Kyle. He hadn’t been able to hold it against Kyle though. Especially since Jenny and Kyle had fallen in love. Now they were happily married with two boys. But those words still....

“Hey, relax, buddy. I didn’t come here to steal her. I just came to make sure that she’s worthy of you. I can tell already that she must be because usually I have to drag you away from your work to have lunch with me.” Kyle continued to chat as Max looked at the small mirror on the wall. Finally after several frustrating minutes, he got his tie straightened.

“Alright, I’m gonna head out. I’m supposed to start working on a campaign for this new art gallery. I’m meeting with one of the artist this afternoon. Mind if I borrow Maria for a couple of hours. She can jot down ideas for me,” Kyle told Max.

“Sure go ahead. I’m sure she’s finished all her work by now. Not that she ever has much anyway...” Kyle laughed at this. As he opened the door he turned back.

“By the way, Congrats on the promotion. You deserve it!”

“Thanks Kyle,” Max said, following him out.

They walked out of the office and were assaulted with the sound of female laughter. Both men quickly turned in the direction of the sound. Liz was sitting on the edge of Maria’s desk, laughing as Maria stood in front of her, talking animatedly. Max approached them quickly, more than a little afraid about what Maria could be telling Liz.

“Liz, hey,” He said standing almost between the two women. Her eyes met his and she smiled brightly.

Kyle’s voice intruded, breaking their little staring contest. “Hi. I’m Kyle Valenti. Max’s best buddy. I’ve heard very little about you but it’s a pleasure nonetheless. You’ve managed quite a feat here, getting Max away from his desk like this.”

“I wish everyone would stop saying things like that. You make it sound like all I ever do is work,” Max said, trying to defend himself.

Three pairs of eyebrows raised simultaneously as if to remind him that that’s exactly all he did.

‘Don’t worry. I’m going to take very good care of our workaholic here. When I’m through you probably won’t even recognize him,” Liz told Kyle and Maria. As she spoke her hands moved to Max’s tie, loosening it.

Kyle bit back a chuckle. “You fair lady are a goddess among mere mortals. Just don’t wear the guy out,” Kyle added with a grin.

Both Liz and Max blushed furiously at this comment. “We should go,” Max finally said. Liz nodded and they left Kyle and Maria standing there laughing, fit to be tied.

******

Liz was completely intrigued by Max. He was obviously well liked by those he actually took the time to talk with. In fact, the more Liz talked with Max, the more charmed she was and the less she understood why Max really even needed to be her project. She was reminded of her intentions over their lunch. Max had made reservations for them. She shouldn’t have been surprised by that but she was. Max liked to be in control. That’s why he’d made the reservations because even if he hadn’t done this consciously, he’d developed a plan. He was the kind of person who had to have a plan.

Liz conceded that she actually thought it kind of cute. And his insecurity about things was another endearing quality. But it was also something he needed to work on. And she was just the person to help with that. She smiled as she remembered the way his eyes had lit up when she’d mentioned doing the lunch thing again. This had given her the confidence she’d needed to continue, knowing that her chances of getting him to agree to her proposal were getting better.

After lunch, Liz made her way back to the condo. She went for a walk on the beach, making plans for the next month. She was a planner just as much as Max was. It was really kind of funny. After awhile, Liz gave up on the beach and went inside to wait for Michael’s daily phone call. He’d had a meeting for the art gallery he showcased at and Liz was curious how it went.

The rest of the week, Liz showed up at Max’s office for lunch everyday. Wednesday they’d included Maria which had been a riot. Then Thursday Kyle had joined them which resulted in stories about Max and Kyle’s college escapades. Liz also got to listen to Kyle brag all about his sons. He’d even pulled out his pictures to show her.

Friday Liz took Max to a street vendor and they sat in the park eating hot dogs. They were sitting on the park bench, silently watching the world around them when Liz turned to Max. “So, you’ve had a good time this past week?” she asked him softly. Her big doe eyes were searching his own and for a moment he was a little lost in looking at them. He finally managed half a smile and answered.

“Yes. This has been.....a really good week. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you.”

Now Liz smiled. “I’m going to ask you something because I think that we’ve gotten to be pretty good friends this week and there’s something I want to do for you.”

The ‘F’ word. She’d said. ‘Friends.’

He decided to ignore it and tried to focus on what she was saying.

“What?”

“ I want you to come and stay with me. For one month. No work. Just you, me, the beach and about a million other things for you to learn about,” Liz said earnestly.

“Come again?” Had Max heard her right? She wanted him to come stay with her for a month?

Max watched as Liz’s eyes grew sad. “Life is a gift Max. You need to learn how to enjoy that gift while you still can,” Liz paused a moment and took his hand in her own. “All you know is your job. And while you’ve got two very wonderful friends in Kyle and Maria, they’re still a part of your job. I want to be the one to show you that there is more to your existence than getting up in the morning to get stuck in traffic and then work twelve hours. More than the perfect sales pitch. So give me a chance. I’m just asking for one month. To show you...everything you could have out side of work. “

“And after the month?” he found his voice to ask.

“Then that’s it. You can go. I won’t bother you and you’ll be able to decide what to do from then on. I just want the opportunity to show you your options.”

Max didn’t know what to say to her. A month. With no work. Just him, Liz, a beach and about a thousand possibilities. But work. He had the Whitman account right now and he needed to get ready for the next set of advertisements.

He made himself look away from Liz’s eyes. It was like they were reaching right down into his soul. That.....scared him.

“I-I need to think about this. I mean, we just met, and I have my job to consider and....” Liz shushed his stuttered words by placing a finger to his lips.

“If your answer is yes, we start April 1st. You can bring whatever you want. I’ll be waiting,” she said softly. She replaced her finger with her lips, placing a gently kiss on his mouth.

She left Max sitting there, confused.

*****

Once again Max found himself sitting in Valenti’s office, waiting for the man to arrive. He didn’t wait long before Jim rushed into the room again. He smiled at Max. “You know what we’re here to discuss, so I’ll cut right to the chase. You’re promotion means bigger accounts. You’ve got Whitman and I have no doubt that you’ll be able to keep him. Now, here are more specifics regarding your.....ascension into the upper ranks,” Jim said, handing him a manila folder.

Max opened it and scanned the contents, his eyes pausing briefly over the salary increase. He could hardly believe it. He looked up at Jim. “This is very generous, sir...I mean Jim,” Max told him.

“It’s nothing, really. You probably deserve more. Now we talked about something else the last time you were here. Taking some time off. The decision is ultimately your, but I’d like to see you unwind a bit. Then when you come back to us you’ll be fresh, with new ideas. And we’ll have time to set up your new office. Miss Deluca will be coming with you of course....So what do you say Max?”

Even as Jim was speaking Max was hearing Liz in his head. He heard the way her voice pleaded with him to take her offer. To let her show him what he was missing in his life. He could see her so clearly.....

“A month,” he said softly.

“What was that Max?”

“Sir, I’d like to take April off sir. The whole month. I ....I can go visit some friends...maybe even my family and .....relax like you said,” Max told him. Thoughts of taking Liz to meet his parents crossed his mind briefly. “I know it’s probably more time than you had in mind but you would still be able to get a hold of me. And I’ll work on the Whitman account a little while I’m gone...”

Valenti shook his head. “Don’t worry Max. A month is a long time, but you’ve earned the time off. So take it. You’ll just have to get your ass in gear when you get back. If you have anything you want done while you’re gone, leave a list with Maria. It’ll get take care of.”

Max stood up. “Thank you, Sir. I appreciate this. Very much.” Max shook Valenti’s hand and left the office for his own. He had two days to get ready.


Chapter 5 *New Part*

April 1st, 2002

Today Max’s month starts. He’s going to be the last one. I thought before that he’d be my biggest challenge. But not because he’s difficult. It’s because he’s so ......amazing and wonderful. I’m afraid that April will pass too quickly. I remind myself as much as possible not to get attached, but it’s already hard. Michael’s keeping a close eye on this one, he says. The minute I’m in too deep, he’s pulling the plug on it. He probably should have pulled the plug a long time ago.

I’m sitting here waiting and wondering about Max now. I’m not even sure he’s coming. But I’m hoping because he deserves a chance at living a fuller life. I want to be the one that shows him how.

Liz


Liz put down her pen and journal with a sigh. Her gaze went to the front door. She wanted Max to be standing on the other side of it, knocking. She almost had a heart attack when there was actually a knock on the door. She jumped off the couch and, composing herself, opened the door.

“Oh, it’s you,” she said.

Michael stood there, an eyebrow raised at her less than enthusiastic greeting. “Gee, that makes me feel loved, Parker. Can I come in?” he asked.

Liz shook her head. “No. I’m waiting for Max. Go away!”

“Max is coming today? Well, I’d say that’s all the more reason for me to be here. Besides...I brought the guy a present. You have to let me stick around to give it to him.

******

Max stood outside her door, fist poised to knock. Call it nerves but he just couldn’t make himself do it. He didn’ t know what he was even thinking...living with Liz for a month? He barely knew her. He must have been delusional to pretend that any of this would even work. He was about to walk away when he heard voices from the inside.

“Michael, I said leave. I don’t want you here when Max comes. Please if you love me at all you’ll go now,” Liz’s voice said.

There was male laughter and then ‘Michael’ spoke. “I told you, I’m not leaving until he gets here. It’s part of my duty as your friend to screen all prospects. Besides...as I’ve already mentioned, I have a gift for the guy.”

Max wasn’t sure what to think of any of this. This Michael guy was making him nervous. Before he could think about it too much he found himself knocking on the door, his curiosity winning out over any of the hesitation that he felt.

“No...Michael...it’s my house. Let me get the door,” Liz hollered from inside. Max bit back a smile. They sounded a lot like kids fighting over a toy. It took a moment but finally the door opened and Liz was standing there smiling brightly. Max could see that her arm was moving and he heard a muffled ‘OUCH! You hit me!’ from behind the door. Liz ignored it choosing to focus her attention on Max. “You came,” she said, her grin getting bigger, lighting up her entire face.

“Yeah, Uhm....I can come back later if I’m interrupting though,” Max told her.

She shook her head. “No. Michael here was just leaving. Weren’t you Michael?”

A tall man, probably Max’s age emerged from behind the door then. He had disheveled hair and there was paint all over his clothes. “Hi. I’m Michael Guerin. Liz’s best friend and guinea pig,” he said with a straight face, extending his hand for Max to shake.

“Michael!” Liz exclaimed.

“No seriously. It’s good to meet you Max. Liz has told me a lot about you.” Michael shook Max’s hand and then turned back to Liz. “I promise I’ll leave you two alone if you just let me give Max the present I got for him.”

“Fine, but make it quick,” Liz insisted. Max followed them inside the condo and into the living room. Liz left them alone and went off down the hallway. Michael picked a medium sized box up off the floor.

“Here you are man. Guard it with your life. It’s everything you’ll need to survive a month with Liz. If you run out...I’m just a phone call away to run interference for you.”

Max stared at the box curiously wondering just what the hell could be inside.

“Wait until your alone to open it or the contents will be confiscated,” Michael said in low voice.

Just then Liz came breezing back into the room. “Okay, Max. Your room is all ready. Michael...time to go so say goodbye and get lost.”

“Okay, sure. I can tell when I’m not wanted any more,” he said. He kissed her cheek and then waved quickly at Max before leaving.

After the door shut Max turned to Liz, “He’s a nice
guy.”

Liz nodded. “Yep. We’ve been friends since high school.” Her guys got a little dreamy like she was remembering. “He used to defend me from all the big bullies. Can you believe I was a big geek back then. Glasses, braces, skinny as a rail and flat as a chalkboard. Of course...some things haven’t changed all that much,” she said with a slight blush, referring to her chest. Before Max could say anything to assure her otherwise she kept talking. “Michael’s like the brother I never had,” she finished.

It was in those words that Max found some much needed relief. For awhile he’d been wondering just what kind of relationship Liz had with Michael. He should have known that friends would be it. Liz was big on the friends thing.

“Is the rest of the stuff in the car?” Liz asked.

Max nodded, unsure of what else to say. This was incredibly awkward.

“Okay, well, I’ll show you your room and then we can bring it in. So follow me.”

She led Max out of the room and down a small hallway, stopping in front of a fairly large bedroom. It had a King sized bed with a hunter green comforter. The bed itself had a dark wood frame and rest of the room’s furniture was stained to match. The room seemed out of place with the rest of the condo. Everything fit together incongruously. This room was the polar opposite.

“Will it be okay?” Liz’s voice asked, breaking through his thoughts.

“Uh..yeah. It’s great. Thanks,” he told her.

Ten minutes later the rest of the things for his stay had been brought in. He was staring to unpack when Liz came into the room to help. “Okay...so I wanted to explain that I have a few rules for my guests while their here,” she told him as she opened up Max’s suitcase and started pulling out his things and putting them away. “First...no alarm clocks. You have to sleep in everyday that you’re here,” she said.

Max found himself laughing at that. “ I like that rule. I think that I can handle that.”

“Good. Next one. No junk food. I’m really big on healthy food, that means no candy bars or potato chips or any type of junk food.”

Max wrinkled his nose at that but still it wasn’t too bad.

Liz went on. “Third. You are required by Liz Parker law to a walk on the beach at least once a day. You get extra points if it’s in the rain.”

“So now there’s a point scale? I don’t like the sound of that,” Max said warily.

Liz smiled. “It’s pretty painless really. Nothing to worry about. Certain things earn certain points. The points you earn help me figure you out if we’ve accomplished anything with your stay. I’ll explain it more later. The fourth rule is that you have to do everything I say. So if I tell you we’re going to paint the condo, then we’re going to paint the condo. That’s just an example though. If I need that done I’ll make Michael do it. The fifth and final rule is the most important rule. NO WORK! This all about you. Work has no part in it what so ever. That means that I have to confiscate your cell phone and your laptop.”

“Now wait...Liz, I have some stuff to work on before I go back to work next month. I can’t neglect it,” Max told her.

“Don’t worry. You’ve got plenty of time for that. You need to enjoy your life Max. Now...let’s go get rule number three taken care of for today.” Liz grabbed his hand and dragged him after her , out the back door onto the deck and then right off the deck to the beach.

Max shook his head. He’d definitely gotten himself into something that he wasn’t expecting.

TBC
posted on 23-Jul-2002 11:44:28 PM by carenicoleIQ
Give me a couple of weeks for my schedule to clear up. Once my internship is finished I have about three or four weeks to write to my hearts content. I hope to update this story, Right Kind of Wrong, Wait for Me and A Season of Firsts. Maybe not in that particular order. I am still working on this though.
Carey

PS. Thanks for all the bumps.
posted on 18-Aug-2002 9:53:55 AM by carenicoleIQ
Bump
posted on 27-Aug-2002 6:19:20 PM by carenicoleIQ
Soon!
posted on 7-Sep-2002 2:54:57 PM by carenicoleIQ
bump!
posted on 9-Oct-2002 5:59:21 PM by carenicoleIQ
For those of you that are curious, I'm hoping to start working on this fic as soon as I complete Right Kind of Wrong. Which will be winding down soon.
Carey