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Old 03-03-2017, 12:47 AM   #1
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Encounter on the Southwest Chief (closed for wideeyedone)

Brian Nowak sat in the cavernous waiting room in Amtrak's Chicago station thinking warmly of his grandfather, Stanley Nowak. As a young man "Grandpa Stan" had worked as a conductor during the heyday of the passenger railroads. He held his young grandson on his knee for hours reveling in stories of those long-lost days. But Brian, now 38, was born too late to taste the romance and adventure of long-distance train travel. In fact, he had never been on anything other than a stodgy commuter train.

But that was until today. In just 25 minutes in fact. For Brian was about to board Amtrak's Southwest Chief, which would take him on a two-day, two-night trip to LA, to attend his boss' daughter's wedding. And, in honor of Grandpa Stan, and given that this was probably the only passenger train trip that he would ever take, Brian had decided to go in style. Though traveling alone he had booked one of the Superliner Bedrooms, complete with its own shower and toilet.

As the images of Grandpa Stan began to fade, others emerged. These were not so pleasant. Three years ago Brian had spent joyous days planning a sight-seeing passenger train trip with his wife, Laurie. That was just before he accidentally found a pair of another man's boxer shorts in his underwear drawer. It took no more than three months for the childless couple to divorce. Since then Brian had had no significant romantic relationships, and had had only a handful of dates. Except for two one-night stands that Brian had orchestrated soon after the marriage break-up - no doubt, he realized, as idiotic attempts to prove himself - he hadn't had sex since his divorce. So, what would have once been a romantic, vacation on the rails with his wife, he was taking the trip alone.

Notwithstanding a bit of melancholy Brian was feeling OK. He had no particular expectations for this trip, but it did feel like an adventure. And, wouldn't Grandpa Stan be proud!

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Old 03-03-2017, 01:02 PM   #2
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Her sister was getting married. Alexa Baker was now the only one of her four siblings that wasnít married. She was happy for her sister. Janna and her fiance Rob seemed perfect for each other. Rob adored Janna and he made a killing as a Hollywood agent. He would be able to keep Janna in her designer clothes and make sure she got to wine and dine with famous people.

She wasnít jealous per se. But she felt self conscious. She didnít even have a date for the wedding. She hadnít been in a serious relationship since college. She just Alexa had snagged a job at the Langham Hotel in Chicago. She loved her new city and she loved her job, planning conventions and special events. She was the manager over meetings and events. She was the youngest person on the managerial staff. She loved walking the hotel and knowing that the perfect details had been added to the events under her supervision. She knew that professional conferences needed coffee that was brewed perfectly and brides needed extra tissue and sometimes emergency deodorant or breath mints.

But she came home to a quiet apartment, a good book and a cup of hot tea most nights. The staff at the hotel was friendly, but most of the people her age her working entry level positions. They saw her as management. She didnít know many people in the city and at work she mostly met people from out of town. From time to time, a businessman in town for a conference would ask her for a drink, but she almost always refused. She didnít want to give the appearance that she was part of the hospitality package.

She wasnít sure why her father had booked her passage by train instead of by air travel. He had taken care of all of the arrangements and told her that he wanted to pamper his hard working girl. He told her he thought she needed to relax and enjoy the scenery and take a break from her high paced life. Alexa had to smile. Her dad acted as if he worried about her working so hard, but she knew that he was proud of her. He liked to brag that she picked a field all of her own that she wanted to excel in. He always managed to bring up in conversation how she had already been promoted several times. Both of her brothers had joined the family business and her sister had never really worked after college. She had a desk at a non-profit, but she mostly just loaned to her name to the fundraising effort while she socialized in LA.

Alexa had her suitcase and her garment bag that held her emerald green chiffon bridesmaids dress. She was dressed for Chicago. Her long dark hair was tied back in a ponytail. She was wearing dark jeans, a soft green sweater that clung to her curves, and brown boots. She was anxious to get on the train and pull out the book she had been reading. She had her glasses perched on top of her head as she dug through her tote bag to find her ticket.
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Old 03-03-2017, 11:19 PM   #3
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As soon as the gate agent announced boarding Brian presented his ticket, boarded the Southwest Chief, and found his assigned Superliner Bedroom. He treasured the idea of having a slow-paced two days of travel, by comparison to his daily work routine, but he was also eager to experience the train trip. At first he was a bit like the little boy that had listened so intently to Grandpa Stan, checking out the climate controls, connecting to wifi, and washing his hands, not because he needed to, but just because he could.

Brian had brought books to read as well as all of his favorite music and movies on his IPAD. Well, his company's IPAD; being employed in a profitable investment firm had its benes. He had also brought a bottle of his favorite Bookers bourbon, from which he now poured just a small, sipping sample. ďMore later,Ē he thought.

There was still five minutes before the scheduled 3:00 p.m. departure time and passengers were still very much boarding. Daniel decided to wait out the chaos snuggled comfortably in his private compartment. Looking out beyond the platform at the skyline of his native Chicago caused Brian to reflect on the course of his life. The grandson of a train conductor and the great-grandson of Polish immigrants, he had done well for himself, at least professionally and very well financially. It hadnít started entirely with him. His father, though not a college grad, had made a decent living working as a salesman for an office products company. His mom went to a regional college and became an elementary teacher. But, with four kids in his good Polish/Irish Catholic family Ė yes, his mom had insisted on preserving some of her heritage, hence, the name ďBrianĒ Ė there wasnít a lot of family money for luxuries beyond paying for the kidsí college education and keeping up the family home.

In high school Brian had fallen in love with acting and theatre. His parents threatened, symbolically, to disown him when he announced that he intended to major in drama after he was accepted into Loyola, but they relented when he proposed minoring in math. Graduating with honors he moved to LA to seek his fortunes as an actor, but soon found out that the job he had as a waiter was probably the best acting gig that was likely to ever pay anything. It wasnít bad, though; his ability to charm customers, combined with his outrageous good looks, landed him a job as a head waiter in a very expensive restaurant, where the tips were outstanding. Saving his earnings he was able to quit work and earn a masterís in applied statistics from Berkeley, a field that promised to pay a living wage. It did more than that. Eager to return to his native city, Brian found an employment add for a modest-sized investment firm in downtown Chicago that was looking for a ďquantĒ, someone who applies probabilistic analysis to investment decisions. Hired originally as the junior member of a two-person team, within three years Brian had moved to the lead when the more senior man retired. He was shocked when the firmís CEO, Emory Mansfield, offered him the promotion at twice his current salary. As he sat sipping his bourbon, Brianís salary was just south of $200k, with annual bonuses, depending on the firmís performance, of up to 20% of his base earnings. He hadnít really relished attending Emoryís sonís wedding along with most of his co-workers, but he liked Emory a lot and what was a boring weekend at a wedding where he didnít know either the bride or groom by comparison to being on the good side of someone who was paying him an almost unbelievable salary, just for crunching numbers?

Brianís reverie was interrupted by the sharp noise of metal grating on metal. The Southwest Chief was moving! And, he noted approvingly, right on time. Brianís next move, he decided was to walk the length of the train and spend some time in the lounge car sipping a drink and watching the scenery go by. But that would wait for at least a few minutes until the Bookers had had time to set in and Chicago was behind him.
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Old 03-05-2017, 12:08 AM   #4
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Alexa settled her possessions in her room. She laid out her toiletries and her pajamas. She stowed away her laptop and her work things. She got out her book and headed to the lounge car. She was a little hungry, but more than that she was a little out of sorts. She ordered a hot chocolate and found a cozy seat to curl up in. Part of her wanted to get out her laptop and check on things at the hotel. But, she knew that things were under control. Her assistant manager was handling the small medical conference that was going on at the Langham and everything was planned to a tee.

She had promised her father she wouldn't work on the trip. She settled into the chair and opened her book. She was reading a suspense novel. It was one of her favorite forms of escapism, but she would have to make sure that the killer was caught before she tried to sleep on the train.

She sipped her hot chocolate and thumbed through the book, inhaling the words and entering another world.Some of her hair slipped out of her ponytail and kept falling in her face. She kept tucking it behind her ear.
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Old 03-06-2017, 01:02 AM   #5
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Brian realized that he was lucky. He had somehow been assigned to Room A on the upper level of the first sleeper car. Being the passenger bedroom farthest forward in the train meant that only crew members would be passing by his door; it was a very private corner of train.

Leaving his room Brian started his jaunt through the upper level of train, beginning with the rest of his car and continuing through the second sleeper car, the dining car - empty in mid-afternoon - the lounge car with its panoramic scenic windows, and, just for the sake of it, through the four couch-class cars. Having completed his tour, he returned to the lounge car, his original destination. Once there, he quickly found the server at the bar and ordered a drink.

Brian had no delusions about modern passenger travel in the U.S. Unlike Grandpa Stan's day meals in the dining car would not be served on good china, nor would there be luxurious upholstered chairs to relax in. Moreover, he knew, he wouldn't find top-shelf bourbon on sale. He was prepared to settle for Jack Daniels - which he did - and seats covered with some artificial fabric. The view from the upper level of the lounge car was, however, spectacular. He quickly found the only remaining seat that swiveled to face the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Busy getting his drink and grabbing the last available seat, Brian had not spent much energy looking at the other passengers, but as he approached the seat he couldn't help but notice that the seat next to the one he was taking was occupied by a woman with a pony tail that was not quite intact, with wisps of hair tucked behind her ear. The image was slightly jarring because, for some reason, Brian had always found this arrangement to be very attractive.

Taking his seat Brian tried hard not to appear to be staring at the young woman next to him. It was difficult, though, because the woman's jeans and sweater hinted clearly at a very fine body that they covered. Brian began to feel slightly flushed, and he was sure that it wasn't entirely form the Jack Daniels.

Ten minutes after Brian took his seat and watched the passing scenery, the woman sat down the book that she had been reading, marking her page and apparently taking in the scenery. Watching out of the corner of his eye he caught her gaze when she happened to glance his way. Feeling more than a little awkward and a bit lecherous considering that this woman was probably 15 or so years his junior, Brian stammered, "Hi. Uh...the scenery is...uh...really beautiful, don't you think?"
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Old 03-07-2017, 12:07 AM   #6
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Alexa had slipped her bookmark into her book and was watching the scenery zip by the large windows. She was thinking about all of the people that had journeyed west to California and wondering how she would have fared in a covered wagon or a stage coach, perhaps rumbling across the plains to find love or fortune.

She noticed the man beside her, he seemed to be watching the scenery as well.

"It's beautiful," She remarked. "I didn't anticipate enjoying this as much as I have. I had originally intended to fly to LA, but this trip is a gift." She wasn't sure why she was talking so much. She hadn't really intended to socialize on the train, but he seemed a bit like a kindred spirit as he watched the beauty of the scenery scroll by.

"I am Alexa. Alexa Baker." She said offering him her hand. She inwardly chided herself for being so formal, but it was just her nature.
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Old 03-07-2017, 12:38 AM   #7
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Brian was relieved that his initiation had apparently not been unwelcome. Indeed, her response seemed like a warm, friendly one.

Taking Alexa's offered hand, and holding it perhaps a second longer than required, Brian remembered to reciprocate, "And, I am Brian. Brian Nowak." He knew that he wanted to keep this conversation going at least for awhile, and the ball was in his court. "This trip is sort of a gift for me, also, except that it's a gift from myself. Since I was a boy I've always wanted to take a cross-country train trip, so I decided to take this train to LA rather than flying."

His introduction and comment to Alexa took no more than 15 seconds, but with the two of them now facing each other Brian took in a whole view of Alexa. God, she was really attractive. Brian had never been an impulsive guy and had never liked the pick-up scene, but somehow, almost outside of his will, he smiled broadly and said, "Could I buy you a drink? I mean, just to celebrate the fact that we both have been given a gift. Or...uh..if you'd rather not have a drink, I'd be interested in knowing what you're reading. You seem to have been pretty absorbed in it."
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Old 03-07-2017, 12:59 AM   #8
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Alexa smiled at him. Her smile went all the way up to her eyes.

"What if we do both? I would love a glass of wine and we could talk books, too." She ordered a merlot and showed him the cover of her book. "I read all sorts of books but for pure escapism I love a good suspense novel. It is keeping me from checking in with the office." She offered sweetly before taking a sip.

"I also brought my kindle. I have several titles in the que. Did you bring something good to read?"
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Old 03-07-2017, 11:54 PM   #9
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Brian was delighted with Alexa's warm response to his offer. He quickly excused himself, went to the serving counter, and returned with a glass of merlot for Alexa and a refill of the Jack Daniels for himself.

Handing the wine to Alexa, Brian reminded himself to be a gentleman. Surprisingly, he found that he was quite impelled to use the occasion to touch her hand. Through the force of his own will he left that sleazy motivation behind him.

He was also pleased that Alexa had suggested talking about books, and had asked him a direct question about his taste. Next to talking about theater, books were one of his favorite topics. "I also love escapist reading," Brian confided. Chuckling he added, "Why else would we read?" With that he raised his glass of Jack Daniels and clinked it against Alexa's wine glass, a nice, little, harmless connection, he thought, with this beautiful woman that he had just met.

"I didn't, however, bring any suspense novels with me. I also like historical fiction. So, I brought a novel about the Irish Easter Uprising, and a novel about the druids in ancient Gaul." He stopped for a minute, then laughed. "I guess my mom would be proud; I'm currently in literature about the Irish side of my parental family."
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Old 03-09-2017, 12:32 AM   #10
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Alexa's eyes lit up as they talked about books.

"I brought some historical fiction-- I am really intrigued with Tudor England right now. I also brought a book called "The Invisibles", it is about the slaves that worked in the white house and their stories."

She took a sip of the wine and made a little, happy, appreciative sound.
"This is a wonderful merlot, thank you for the drink." She offered with a smile. She found herself quite charmed by this handsome stranger. Her trip was definitely looking up.
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Old 03-10-2017, 12:17 AM   #11
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That Alexa's repeated smiling warmed Brian's heart was hardly a surprise to him. That his still brief interaction with her was warming up something a lot farther south was quite unexpected, but very welcome. Brian hadn't felt turned on in months. "Hey," he reminded himself, "calm down. She's being warmly friendly with an older brother sort of guy. No need to start thinking down a different road just because she's a hot, younger woman and you've been on a long dry spell."

Still, Brian couldn't help himself. He decided to try to turn the conversation in a little more personal direction. "Oh...we have similar tastes, although I've never read much about the Tudor period. The Invisibles sounds really interesting; I'm sure that I would enjoy it." Returning Alexa's smile in full force, he added, "And, I"m glad you like the merlot. It's my pleasure to add something enjoyable to your day."
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Old 03-10-2017, 12:26 AM   #12
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Alexa smiled at him and took another sip of the wine.

"My father booked this trip for me. He tells me that I work too hard and he wanted me to have a little mini vacation. I didn't really expect to enjoy it this much." She looked over at him and found herself blushing. "Thanks for being such good company."

She pushed a strand of hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear.

"Are you travelling for business or pleasure?" She asked, wanting the conversation to continue.
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Old 03-10-2017, 04:04 PM   #13
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By the time Alexa had finished her question, Brian had turned his swivel chair away from the window to face her square on. It might have been his imagination, he presumed, but he thought that he could see a small blush moving from Alexa's neck up to her face. He had seen this phenomenon in women before and never knew how to interpret it. One of his good friends claimed that it was an unconscious expression of sexual interest, but that friend interpreted just about anything a woman did as indicating sexual interest, so Brian had not given his friend's interpretation much credence. Besides, Brian had also read somewhere that women who are even just a little shy or introverted tend to blush a bit in social interaction, moreso than men do. So...nice as it might be to imagine that Alexa was taking an interest in him as a man, Brian decided to put that idea aside, at least for the time being.

He had more trouble controlling his own reactions, though. For some reason, and he never understood why, he found women who had loose strands of hair very attractive. Women playing with such loose strands was a remarkable turn-on for him. When Alexa adjusted her hair he uncontrollably let out a very small gasp. Alexa didn't seem to notice; he certainly hoped that she didn't.

Are you traveling for business or pleasure?

The answer to Alexa's question was obvious and certainly not at all a private matter, but, given the other thoughts that were swirling around in his head, her reference to "pleasure" linked to a different set of thoughts and images than her question presumably referenced. Besides, he had been realizing lately, that this was almost a "business" trip, in that he really had little interest in the wedding itself, and, no doubt, would not have attended had his boss not been so eager to have his co-workers present.

"Well," Brian replied, holding Alexa's gaze as much as possible without actually leering, "it's a little of both. I'm going to the wedding of the son of the man who owns the business for which I work. The only time that I've ever met any of his family, his son was out of town. In fact, I can't even remember his son's name. Guess I better look that up before I get there and embarrass myself, huh?" He laughed, "shit, I could go to the wrong wedding and not even know it! The point is that, although in principle this is a pleasure trip for me - and, as I said, going by train is a gift to myself - I wouldn't be going to this wedding if my boss hadn't been so insistent."

Brian was poised with the obvious follow-on question, but started instead with, "But, chatting with you makes this trip seem like a pleasure trip indeed!" Brian wasn't entirely sure the he wasn't blushing, but continued quickly, "So..how about you? Business or pleasure?"
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Old 03-11-2017, 02:29 AM   #14
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Alexa smiled at him as he talked about the wedding he had to attend. She liked that he seemed loyal to his boss and that he was trying to enjoy the trip even though it was a trip of obligation. It was an indicator that he was a good guy. He asked her about her trip.

She found herself smiling again. "My sister is getting married. I am a bridesmaid. I am the last Baker sibling to be unattached and I think my father gave me this trip to help make sure that I am not feeling badly about myself. He thinks I work too much. And I am the only one of his four kids that isn't close by."

Alexa sipped her wine and then set down her glass. "The bridesmaid dress isn't that bad. It's emerald green which is a good color for me. But it is a little fussy for my taste."
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Old 03-11-2017, 09:56 PM   #15
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Like most Americans Brian had been to quite a few weddings of friends and family, in addition to his own. He was always surprised that the bride would require that her bridesmaids buy fancy, matching dresses that are too outrageous for them to wear again. In fact, he never found the dresses to be very attractive. Nonetheless, his mind was flooded with images of Alexa in an emerald green, fancy gown. He imagined a plunging neckline and a tight bodice that would show off what Brian now was convinced, based on little information, was a gorgeous body.

Brian took a slow sip of his bourbon while smiling warmly and maintaining eye contact with Alexa. "Well, I'll take your word for it that its a little too fussy, but I know that you will look great in it."

He paused on the brink of what might be an unwelcome advance, then took the plunge. "I'm sorry that I won't get to see you in it. I'm sure that it would be a beautiful image that I wouldn't forget for a long time."
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Old 03-11-2017, 10:41 PM   #16
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Alexa was feeling extremely brave when Brian mentioned seeing her in the dress.

"Well, if you give me your phone number I can send you a picture of me in the dress. My sister is the queen of instagram, so I can assure you that dozens of pictures will be taken."

Alexa bit her lip right after, a little nervous that she was being too forward.
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Old 03-11-2017, 11:24 PM   #17
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Brian was ecstatic that Alexa had, apparently, not rebuffed his advance. In fact, she had, at least metaphorically, leaned into it. He reminded himself not to completely over-interpret her response.

"Thanks," Brian replied, trying not to gush with his delight at her response. "But, I suggest a better deal." Pulling out his iPhone, he continued, "How about if we just exchange numbers right now. Then, just in case I want to send you a text after we end this train trip, I can do so even if you haven't yet sent me your sister's Instagram?"

Brian was delighted to see Alexa reach for her phone. He knew that he should just stop right there, but he was on a roll. "While we're talking about possible future chats, I made my reservation for the last seating in the dining car at 7:30. Would you consider joining me at that hour for dinner?" Brian realized suddenly that he had complimentary meals because he was traveling in the sleeping car. If Alexa was traveling coach, she would have to pay for dinner. So, he quickly added, rather impulsively, "Uh..I have a cabin in the sleeping car, so my dinner is free. If yours isn't, well...uh...I'd be happy to treat you."
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Old 03-11-2017, 11:36 PM   #18
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Alexa almost dropped her phone when he invited her to dinner. She looked up at him when he offered to treat her.

"I have a superliner bedroom, so you won't have to treat, but I would love to join you." She offered softly. She reached back into her bag and got out her business card holder. She slipped out on of her cards and then wrote her personal cell phone on the back in her pretty script.
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Old 03-13-2017, 12:55 AM   #19
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Brian was ecstatic that Alexa had accepted his dinner offer. He tried, with only mixed success, to not seem over-eager. When she offered her business card to him, their hands touched only momentarily, but it was enough to send a jolt through Brian's whole body. "Calm down," he told himself again, "don't be a jerk and over-interpret everything that Alexa does or that you feel."

As delighted as Brian was with Alexa's acceptance of his offer, there was now a bit of awkwardness. Where to go next with their conversation and interaction? Neither of them were being wildly flirtatious, yet there seemed to be some growing connection that was more than a passing, casual encounter.

He decided to keep their conversation on personal topics, but not to up the intensity. Turning over her business card, Brian said, "So, Langham hotel. Pretty impressive. Didn't I just read in the Tribune where the Langham was rated No. 1 in the USA for 2017 by some rating group or other? And, "events manager", sounds pretty important to me. So...tell me about your work."

Brian paused, laughing, but continued before Alexa could respond. "Oh, fuck! You just told me that your dad wanted you to have a vacation where you didn't think so much about work, and here I am quizzing you about it. So, if you'd rather, tell me something about the non-work part of your life."
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Old 03-13-2017, 03:11 PM   #20
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Alexa's smile faltered a little when he asked about her non-work life.

"I don't have much to tell outside of work. I have a lovely apartment. I read a great deal. I like the people I work with. But I work too much and I don't do a whole lot outside of work. I run in the park most mornings." Her voice was a little tentative when she talked about her personal life. But it changed when she talked about work.

"I love my job. I plan conferences and weddings and all sorts of other special events. I make sure people have what they need and all of the details are perfect. I like taking care of all of the details." She offered with a smile. "My favorite is when people tell me that something was flawless or that they didn't have to worry about a thing."
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Old 03-16-2017, 01:01 AM   #21
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As Brian listened to Alexa's reply he was struck by their similarities. He, too, didn't have much of a non-work life, although with the big exception of his usual annual involvement in community theater. He also really liked his work, although he sensed that she was somewhat more attached to her work than he was to his.

He also noted that Alexa made no reference to, or hint of, a boyfriend or dating. "Of course, " he thought, "she might just be holding back on something that personal."

"Wow," Brian said with genuine enthusiasm, "you really like your work and it seems to really give you a lot of satisfaction. I like my work also - quite a lot, actually - but I wish I experienced the excitement that you seem to. I'm an applied statistician. I crunch numbers for a living for a financial firm."

Changing the subject a bit, Brian said, "It sounds like we have something in common. I also have a pretty quiet non-work life. I live in an apartment also and read quite a bit too, but most of my non-work time I spend by myself." For some reason, he decided to wait to later to mention his theater involvement.

Brian hesitated, then decided to take a leap to see where it would take the conversation. "God, I haven't had a date in so long I can hardly remember." Chuckling a little, he added, "Sex? What's that? I think I have forgotten!"
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Old 03-16-2017, 01:34 AM   #22
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Alexa found herself warming to him even more as he described his quiet life. She laughed just a little when he brought up a lack of sex.

"A few times, my father had some young associate in his firm show up in Chicago and ask me out to dinner. But it was so awkward. That's part of why I didn't go into his field. I just want a real life. I want to meet someone that wants me for me, not to get close to my family, or move ahead at work."

She stopped short, a little shocked at herself that she was so vulnerable with an almost stranger.
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she looks like such a good girl....but did you notice her wicked smile?

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Old 03-16-2017, 01:44 AM   #23
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I want to meet someone that wants me for me, not to get close to my family, or move ahead at work.

Brian was surprised at Alexa's sudden openness about herself, and it caused him to respond impulsively, so much, in fact that he could feel himself starting to blush, this time almost certainly noticeably.

"Oh, Alexa, your wish is not going to be hard to fulfill, I'm sure. Any guy who ended up with you would be lucky, indeed. You are so attractive, both inwardly and...uh..outwardly, that it shouldn't be hard finding someone who wants you for you."
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Old 03-16-2017, 02:18 AM   #24
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Alexa flushed deeply.

"I am not sure why I just told you that. My last serious boyfriend was just after a job with my father. I think it rattled my confidence."

She took another sip of wine.

"I am going to go get freshened up for dinner. I know I don't need to 'dress' for dinner. But I would like to get out of these jeans and spruce up a bit."
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Old 03-17-2017, 12:44 AM   #25
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Brian was relieved. Although Alexa flushed some in response to his spontaneous compliment, she didn't seem to be turned off by it. He had come on a little strong, he thought. He was also somewhat relieved by her decision to return to her bedroom to freshen up before dinner. As much as he was greatly enjoying their interaction, Brian was a little worried that he wouldn't be able to stop himself from coming on too strongly. His attraction for Alexa was growing rapidly. He, also, needed a little break.

"Well, Alexa, you're right. You don't need to 'dress' for dinner. The days of trains as luxury travel are long gone. I took a tour of the train before I met you. The 'dining car' is really more like a 'diner' than it is like a nice restaurant. I'm sure that you will look perfectly fine, either way, but I understand your desire to freshen up some." Brian laughed, "It's only a little after 4:00; you've got 3 1/2 hours to freshen up. I bet you'll look great! Me, I think I'll take a nap!"

Brian stood as Alexa left, but chose deliberately to sit back down rather than walk with her. He didn't want to overdo it, or come across as a stalker. Turning his swivel chair back to the window, Brian tried to focus his attention on the passing scenery. This was, after all, very much what train travel was all about. But, meeting Alexa had changed his focus. So intent was he on their interaction, that he had barely realized that the train had made its first, brief stop in Naperville, IL. Now, as he gazed at the passing scenery, the images that flooded his mind were not of the Illinois plains, but of Alexa in all of her beauty.
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