Charles called to cancel our dance lessons for the next few weeks. He's involved in a play, and although it doesn't start for a couple of weeks he'll be tied up with rehearsals and planning. It's probably a good thing for me, because work is so stressful right now, but I'm disappointed that Brian didn't get more comfortable first. Still, it shouldn't be for long.

This morning we have a thunderstorm, and fairly heavy rain. That means my drive to work will be one-and-a-half to two hours. Since I'm going to be there late anyway, and I'll make better time when traffic lightens up a little, I'm going to delay going in for a little while.

I'm supposed to talk with Mary at eight-thirty, but I sent her email delaying the meeting.


Mel and Juanita finished their estimates on time, and Mary was pleased with the results. She thinks the designs are good and the times realistic. They've generated a project schedule for four programmers from February 1 to the end of August. Of course, I can't find enough people to do that, at least until mid-March, but they had to create a start point, and the project can be rearranged.

Terry and I took them out to dinner last night. It was Terry's suggestion, and he was expensing the meal, so we went to a really good steak restaurant. Terry's wife, Joan, and Mel's wife, Darla, came with us, as did Brian. Mary, Juanita and Scott came alone.

I'd never met Joan or Darla before, and I enjoyed getting to know them. Mainly, we were getting to know the newcomers, Mel and Juanita.


Brian surprised me last night.

I'm used to being the one to take the lead in matters sexual. Not the when - we're both pretty good at knowing when to push and when it's time just to sleep - or even the how... But I'm the more experimental of us. It's I who usually wants to try new things.

Last night we took a shower together. When we do that in the morning, it's just a friendly, efficient way to start the day. (Although sometimes it leads to a not-so efficient but much more than friendly distraction.) At night, though, it invariably means sex. If one of us says "Let's go get a shower", we both know it's shorthand for, "let's go screw like minks, but keep our options open", because (e.g.) oral sex, after a hard day's work can be less than perfect.

Last night was Brian's suggestion. And I was looking forward to feeling the erotic effect of his tongue. But that wasn't what he had in mind. I was already turned on by shower games by the time we got to bed, and I sat on his legs and stroked his cock with my fingernail.

"Turn around," he said, so I turned to sit on his stomach, and started sliding back towards his face, so we could ease into a sixty-nine position.

"No, forwards," he said. "Now lie down," as I reached where his cock nestled against my pussy. So I lay face down, my face between his ankles, and he lifted me and eased himself inside me.

"Lift up onto your elbows," he said, so I did, pushing him all the way into me.

Moving was awkward, as I felt I was moving backwards rather than down, and had to rock on my elbows as well as my hips, but I could sense immediately why Brian thought the effort was worthwhile. The depth and angle of penetration were pushing his cock firmly against my G-spot.

It took a few moment to get beyond the discomfort, but when I did, my belly was already on fire with excitement. I could sense the power of what was heading my way.

I tried to move slowly, to postpone the inevitable, but soon the feeling took too firm a hold. Each move was making me tighter, and stimulating me more, from deep inside to the sliding pressure on my clit and the feel of him against my pussy. As much as I tried to hold back, the sensation wouldn't quit, and I couldn't keep from pushing back harder and faster into him.

Even that wasn't enough in the last pre-orgasmic climb. My face was damp, my hair sticking to my cheeks and getting in my eyes, and I was panting for breath as I grabbed his ankles, better to be able to push back. Slamming against him with abandon I felt control flee from me as I climaxed in an explosion of sexual glory.

The stimulation after that point was so intense it was almost beyond what I could bear, but I kept my sex crushed against Brian as he moved, until I couldn't stand any more, and collapsed on the bed, shuddering.

I could feel Brian twitching inside me; obviously he had come at some point, but I hadn't noticed. I just hugged his legs to me - showering before attempting this position probably is a good idea - as my orgasm faded into an aroused euphoria.

When Brian took my hips and started moving again, I muttered, "I don't think I can". But even as lay there limp, I was still so turned on that I couldn't help myself. He drove against me until my body's response overcame my lethargy, tensing involuntarily against him, until he proved me wrong as I came, gripping his legs for support and gasping for breath.

When I'd finally stopped whimpering. I eased myself off him and slid between the sheets.

"Was that something you learned from Julie? " I asked. "I should thank her."

"Not Julie," he said. "Fiona."

"Oh. Wow. That must have been quite a conference, then."

He grinned at me. "It isn't a very... affectionate position. But it seemed to make Fiona happy."

"I'll bet," I muttered.

"Are you sounding jealous?" he asked.

"After that, I couldn't be jealous if you told me you'd slept with a whole squad of cheerleaders," I said. Then after a moment, I added, "Though in a way... it doesn't make me jealous, but it makes knowing about it more... personal. She was just a name, now I have this picture of her, of the two of you." I took his hand and set it on my breast. I didn't want him to think that the image was upsetting me.

My body's aroused sensitivity made even the small movements of his hand as he fondled my breast feel wonderful, and I turned towards him and kissed his nose. "I can imagine the two of you fucking, she's on her elbows, making enough noise to wake up the hotel, and you're so into it, you don't even care... is that what it was like?"

"Actually, she was much quieter than you, just now, but there was something about the sounds she was making and the way she was moving... you're right, I was getting off on being able to do that to her.

I stroked his stomach and down to fondle him. He was already getting hard again. Remembering Fiona was turning him on. "How many times did you do it like that?"

"Just one... listen, do you really want to hear this?"

"Sure," I said, climbing onto him. "I'm enjoying it. And I might work it into a story..."

"Oh, Jeez," he said, as he slipped into me. "Okay. Then the first two nights were pretty much conventional. The third she showed me this. After that..."

"The third?" I interrupted. "Just how long was this conference?

"Four days."

"Four days? Jesus. You worked fast..." I relaxed long him. "Mmm, this feels good. You are going to have to tell me all to tell me about it for a story."

"It wasn't anything really exciting. We just... Well..."

"Mmm... I'd say three nights of passion is a four day technical conference was pretty exciting. But you were saying about afterwards....?"

"After? Oh, after that, yeah..." he said. We were moving very slowly. "I thought we were through, she seemed exhausted, but after a few minutes just... you know, fooling around, she was more... demanding than ever. I was a zombie during the last day of the conference."

I kissed his lips as we slowly squeezed our bodies together. Then I relaxed against him again. "I think I know why," I whispered into his ear. "A fire like that's hard to extinguish."

My own fire was still smoldering. It would take very little to make it blaze again, but I was enjoying the closeness, the delicious feel of him inside me. "It's strange to think of you with another woman," I said. "Strangest of all that it isn't upsetting. When you were with Julie that night... well, the one I knew about... I was physically sick. I'd had too much to drink, too. But now, I want to hear about it. Another night, though..."

"Okay," he said, and lifted me to kiss my breasts.

"Don't," I said, "I'm not ready... mmm... on the other hand..." and started the bed shaking.


I thought that last week was the end of the estimating task that Mel undertook. Boy, did I miss that boat.

It started Tuesday, after Ken had had the chance to review our proposal. I guess I'm fortunate that it wasn't Monday, since I got so little sleep Sunday night.

So, Tuesday we had the first of a series of meetings about the project. Ken, Terry, and me. And as you may recall, though I haven't said much about him in a while, Ken and I have had a strange working relationship.

When he was VP of Engineering, and I was a network admin geekette, he would treat me like I was stupid. Then I was promoted, and was responsible for implementing Ken's "team ownership" ideas. Although I haven't seen much of him in person since then, Terry has told me that he was pleased with the way the software group has put his vision into practice. And when I have seen him, he has treated me with respect.

But he still doesn't seem to like me. That's fine, I don't need for the people I work with to like me. I'd rather have someone I trust to listen to me than someone who's friendly but fickle. But it does make it hard to read Ken. When he scowls at me I can't tell if he's disagreeing or just displeased to have me around.

Sometimes it seems that he's peeved because he agrees with me. As if I shouldn't be allowed to have good ideas.

Of course, a lot of this could be my imagination, just because I don't especially like Ken. He is arrogant, and looks down on people - not just me, and not just women, he's an equal-opportunity sneerer. But he is good at his job.

Ken had wanted Mel to be at the Tuesday meeting. I'd said no, reviews and changes had to go through me. I didn't want Mel to be in the position of making agreements without my approval. That's my job, after all, but I don't think that Ken was happy had that I began by taking some control from him.

I'm glad I did, because Ken immediately claimed the estimates were "unacceptable".

I asked him what would constitute "acceptable". His answer was May or early June. So what did he expect by then? Everything, he claimed. Developed, integrated, tested.

"Since that can't happen," I said, "what's the minimum? Can you write a requirements doc for the minimum functionality you'd need?"

He still wanted everything, of course. He claimed that it didn't need to be production-quality code, but after we'd argued about where we could cut corners, he said it must still be bug-free.

Since bug-free software's an oxymoron, that requirement is tighter (and less achievable) than "production-quality", so we argued about what he meant by that. No show-stopper bugs, of course. Workarounds are okay, and no requirement for it to run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If it must be shut down occasionally to prevent crashes or resource leaks that's okay. It doesn't need to be optimized.

With these looser constraints I figured we could pull in the test time slightly, but still not enough. So we returned to haggling about feature sets to shorten the schedule more.

I've read a description of diplomatic negotiations before, which said that each side says the same thing over and over, only at occasional times changing wording, and sometimes the wording changes offer enough of a change that eventually there is a compromise. It seems like a very inefficient way to reach an agreement, but I was reminded of it as we kept going around in circles.

It wouldn't have been helpful for me to concede time without his yielding on feature sets, because all that would do is plant the seeds for failure in missed deadlines, and I won't commit to overtime at the outset, because extra hours is the only safety margin we have.

I accepted that we'd save some time if we were to use a larger team, but not as much as Ken wanted, because of the loss of time in recruiting and training, and also because breaking the tasks too small is inefficient. He promised more HR held and salary flexibility, which made me think that perhaps this project is more significant than I'd been led to believe.

I did manage to get some features concessions and schedule lengthening, which he had to take back to the customer while I had to consult Mel on the changes.

That took all of Tuesday. Wednesday I met in the morning with Mel, who came up with some suggestions, then with Ken, Mel and Terry in the afternoon, where we finally reached an agreement.

Today, Ken invited me to a project meeting. Dale was there, he winked at me and I tried not to blush. He's been mainly out of town, and I haven't spoken to him since our private Christmas celebration. The meeting gave me a different perception of what's involved. It's potentially huge. Dale's customer in Vancouver is pushing for the product, and is involved in the trial, which Ken is now scheduling for early July, but if the trial goes well, this will become a major new sales opportunity.

The meeting finished just before five, and I thought I was finally out from under the stress. But Ken held me back.

"We need a project manager. I'm not comfortable with Mel's team... he'll be lead on this, right?"

"That's my intention, yeah."

"I'm not comfortable with him meeting the deadlines unless someone I trust is monitoring him."

That raised my hackles. "He'll still be in Engineering, and I'll be managing him..."

"I know, but you're not responsible for the hardware, the integration time, or the logistics."

"I thought the idea was the hardware is ready, this is just a new application."

"Yeah, right," he said. "When did you ever know an engineer not need to make changes? By June, I need to know that Mel is on track, that he has the hardware he needs, and the support from Andy's people. I need to know it from someone who isn't going to tell me everything's okay when there are slips."

"Someone responsible for more than just the software team? I guess that makes sense, though I'll warn you now that I won't let him screw around with my people."

Ken scowled. "Do you know how important this is?"

"Important enough that I won't let your project manager drive my guys away or work them so hard they produce shoddy results. Important enough that you have to let us do it right."

"The project manager will have my authority to do whatever's needed," he said. I held my anger in check. "I need someone who can push just hard enough to get quality work that will make the customer happy, then turn to the customer, smile politely and say 'No' to unreasonable demands. Do you know anyone like that?"

"Umm, no," I said, thinking that whoever he named to that position, I was going to hate working with him.

"I do," he said, and I swear I saw a glimmer of a quickly-suppressed grin. "I'm sure Terry will take your advice on who should replace you as Software Group Manager. You can spend as long as you need transitioning, but although it may look now like something you could do part-time, I guarantee that by the time of the trial you'll be working your ass off. After that... well, this will be a very high visibility project, both to the customer and within the company. You'll be working directly for me. Your immediate customer will be Dale, representing the Vancouver account, but eventually it will be the marketing group."

"I'm sorry, I'm not following... you want me to be the project manager?"

He looked at me like I remember from the network admin days. "That was the idea. Unless you don't think you can do it..."

"Let me think about it."

"Okay, we'll meet Monday. You'll probably have some questions then."


Laurel called last night to invite us to join them at the Jupiter. We had planned to go out to eat, which we do too often, especially when I'm working such long hours. And dancing sounded more fun, so we ate early and joined them later.

Charles wasn't there because of rehearsals. At least that's what I'd figured.

"Re'ersals, dearie?" - Yolanda slipped into one of her London accents. "Well you might call it re'ersals, but what are they re'earsin' for? That's the real Q, innit?"

"What my uncouth but insightful associate is trying to say," said Laurel, in mouthful-of-toffee tones, "is that... our mutual friend has become in-vole-ved with a member of the cahst."

"Involeved with the carst is it? Well, aren't you be'ind the times? It's the bleedin' director 'oos bum 'e's bangin', innit?"

"Actors." said Laurel in mock disdain. "Is there any difference?"

"Oh," I said. "This director's female? Or is there something I don't know about Charles?"

"Female" said Yolanda, back out of character. "Her husband wrote the script."

"And plays the leading role," agreed Laurel. "Like they say, there's no business like show business."

"I thought all that stuff only happened in Hollywood," I said.

"Hell, no," said Laurel. "I could tell you... by the way," she said to Yolanda, "I don't think 'banging her bum' is an English expression."

"No?" asked Yolanda. "Shit, I liked that."

Poor Brian didn't get a moment's rest, with three women needing a partner. Yolanda, Laurel and I danced with each other and other guys, of course, but mainly we took turns wearing Brian out.

He didn't seem to mind, and his dancing is certainly improving.

Afterwards we went over to Laurel's condo to split a bottle of wine, though Laurel brewed Starbucks coffee for Brian, who was driving. Then Brian noticed her Nintendo 64 and started rifling through her games.

"I'd not have imagined you as a video gamer," I said.

"There's plenty you don't know about me, Helen," she said, with a quick grin, then sat on the floor beside Brian to play, while I sat on the couch with Yolanda and my wine.

After the stress of the week, the exertions of the evening and drinks at the Jupiter, the pleasant buzz from the wine was relaxing. Laurel and Brian were absorbed in some space war game that involved building bases and training soldiers. Very noisily.

"How do you feel about Charles's girlfriend? " I asked Yolanda.

"He's being stupid," she said. "Not for the first time. He'll be depressed when it's over. I mean, shit, at least he could at least have found someone single."

"What I really meant, I guess," I said, "is what will it do to you? Y'all are always together."

"Like I said, it isn't the first time. I don't like to see a friend like Charles setting himself up like this."

"I thought you were... more than friends, I guess," I said.

"We're not, like, married to him, y'know, said Yolanda. "I mean, sure. He'll keep you warm on a cold night, but that's just sex, y'know, it doesn't mean anything. It's what friends do. Well, some friends," she amended.

The TV was making machine-gun noises. Brian's corner of the screen was looking very red. I didn't know if that was good or bad.

"So Charles has cut himself off from you with this woman?"

"Yeah," said Yolanda, "else she'll get jealous. Been there, done that. No big deal, it's the depression afterward that's hard."

Apparently red on the TV screen was bad, because Laurel crowed when Brian's base was destroyed.

"Let's find something simpler," he said. "They're distracting me." Meaning Yolanda and me and our topic of conversation.

"Face it, I'm better than you," said Laurel.

"That, too."

They switched to Mario Kart two-player. If you're not familiar with it, it's played on a number of closed layouts, and the idea is to lob turtle shells to hit your opponent, which bursts a balloon. There are other ways of bursting balloons too, I believe. You get three balloons, and the when your last balloon bursts, you've lost. It's very much a children's game but it looked like they were enjoying it. Laurel, especially, twists and turns as she's playing as though she were actually leaning into turns.

One of the courses is on ice, and they were sliding around all over trying to hit each other. Laurel kept running into her own turtle shells, giggling when she sailed into them, unable to stop. Brian won that round without losing a balloon. He lost maybe about half of the games, though.

"Yolanda, want to take over?" asked Laurel, starting another game.

"Not unless you change the rules," the other said.

"How change?"

"Well, shit, it's a kid's game. You need an adult version. I'm thinking, each balloon should be an article of clothing. Forfeit one each time you're hit, another when you lose. See, you just got Brian's shirt off. How long have we been trying to do that? Ooh, there goes a shoe. See, Helen, he can't wait to get naked with us."

"I think it's more that you gave Laurel motivation," I offered. "If she keeps this up, he's going to be down to his boxers while she's still fully clothed."

"Nope, she just lost her top. And she's starting with a no-shoe handicap."

"Shall we keep score?" I asked. "Since they're not shedding the clothes they've forfeited, maybe we should just help them to imagine. Or maybe if we left them alone, they'd follow your rules. Ooh, what did she lose now?"

"If we left them alone, I doubt they'd need the video game to get naked."

"You got that right," said Laurel, eyes still on the TV.

"That does it," said Brian, losing his last balloon yet again, and laughing. "I can't even play games around you three."

"Well," said Laurel, turning off the TV. "I think we could find some multi-player games to keep you entertained. The kind you always win."

"You all scare me," sad Brian, but he was grinning. "C'mon, Helen, let's go he before they make me an offer I should refuse.

Yolanda asked for a ride home, so we all took our leave of Laurel. "Come by any time for video games, she said to Brian. "I'm sure you play better without the distractions."

"I'm surprised at Laurel," I said after we'd dropped Yolanda at her house. "Yolanda is usually the one to flirt with you. If you can call their overt suggestions flirting."

Brian didn't reply immediately. Then he said, "You know, you ought to base a story on them. Maybe just on one of them, since that's what you like to write. Young guy, innocent, experienced girl, he never knows what to make of her sexual innuendo, finally manages to convince himself it's just a game, she doesn't really want him, when pow."

"Is that your fantasy about Laurel and Yolanda? Pow?"

"I assert my right against self-incrimination."

"You know, you hardly class as innocent anymore. I think you proved that last weekend. Still, it's a nice idea... I'm not sure if I can make it work with one woman, though. The thing about the twins is they don't address you directly a whole lot. They talk across you. If Laurel directed her banter at you it would be less ambiguous, and it would be hard to get to that point of 'No, she doesn't really mean it'. Or else if it was more subtle, it would be a different fantasy. You want brazen and ambiguous."

"Yeah, that's exactly it."

"Then the other thing is," I continued, "admit it, the fantasy takes a lot of its power from what they're offering. I think every guy wants to make it with two girls at once."

Brian made a non-committal grunt.

"As you say, I don't think I could do a good job with multi-partner or bisexual encounters. But you know you could try writing it yourself."

He laughed. "If you have trouble writing about the situation, how the hell would I be able to imagine it?"

I just stared at him until the answer became obvious.

"Oh, no. You're not serious."

I shrugged. "What have you got to lose?"


"Jesus, what do I need to do, Brian? Give you a written permission slip? 'To whom it may concern. My boyfriend has my permission to have sex with you. Signed, girlfriend of the above'"


"It's your fantasy and your life, Brian. Don't encourage the twins if you don't want to. But don't make your decision on my account."

Maybe it was my imagination that there was some extra "Pow" between us when we got home. But as tired as I was - and as much as I'd had to drink by that point - something made an impression on me.


So I now have a new job title.

Well, not yet, actually. I'll be doing my current job through the transition, and figuring who should replace me. Maybe I should leave that decision to Terry.

As hard - and as different - as this is going to be, I don't see how I can pass up the opportunity.

Yesterday I called Dale. I wanted to know whether this was his idea. Turned out he didn't even know that Ken had or would offer me the job. I asked if he felt he'd have any trouble working with me... or would have any expectations of me that went beyond work. He said no, he was very pleased with the idea, that he thought we'd work well together, and that he knew that the customer would be very pleased.

In fact, he wonders if maybe that's where the initial suggestion came from. I can't really ask Ken, of course, but it would make sense if the idea didn't originate with Ken. Although, being Ken, I doubt he would have made the decision without being convinced that it was a good one.

I've started on <groan> yet another round of hiring to fill out the software team. This is as "software group manager", rather than "project manager"... there's definitely some opportunity for conflicts of interest here. For instance, I'm leaning towards making Mary team lead, rather than Mel. I'm sure that won't bother Mel, he wasn't looking to be a lead within two months of starting, but I could recommend Mary for my job. I guess I should talk to her about it.

Plus, I keep trying to talk myself out of using Juanita. As software group manager, I know she's got great potential, and this would be an excellent project to get her into, since it's so new and everyone in the team will be learning somewhat. As project manager I want as much experience as I can get for my project.

Right now, the software hat is the main one. I've got to do what's best for the group as a whole, and that means putting Juanita on the project.

There are going to be a lot of difficult decisions and late nights ahead.