Natalie sat with her two best friends in the back seat of the taxi. She'd tuned out their mindless chit-chat blocks ago and now watched the bright streetlights whiz by. The pleasant, cool night air of late September teased her skin through the open windows.
As a copy editor, she'd been working twenty-four-seven with the magazine's newest client, preparing an expansive layout feature for the next issue. A lot was riding on the spread. If successful, this project would be a huge stepping-stone in her career. Since Midge Patterson's retirement three months prior, Natalie'd had her eye on the unfilled copy chief's position and, come hell or high water, was determined to make it hers. She'd been biding her time and had proven herself more than capable in her four years with the highly successful magazine.
This was her first weekend off in six weeks and now, Natalie really needed to let loose. She intended to make the most of it. Having been cooped up in her office for so long, she'd almost forgotten there was a big old world outside the confines of those four, cell-block-grey walls. Truly, she would have liked nothing better than to be at home tonight, curled up in the corner of her cozy sofa, finishing off the romance novel she'd started more than a month ago. Or watching the M* A* S* H series she'd purchased on DVD three months ago, and had yet to open.
But, oh no, she'd allowed Megan and Dani to drag her out to God knows where, to do God knows what. She loved her two best friends with all her heart. The trio had known each other since first grade, and now, after her parents' passing four years earlier, they were the only family Natalie had left. After twenty-three years, she trusted them with her life, although considering some of the messes they'd dragged her into, she wasn't sure why.
Natalie was the sensible, levelheaded one in their trio. She'd had to study hard for good grades, worked several part-time jobs to put herself through college, and dedicated every spare moment to her career. Executive editor was definitely in her future.
Despite coming from old money, Megan was thrifty, organized and focused. She managed a trendy clothing store in a popular mall, primarily to feed her shopping addiction. As a clothes-horse, Megan couldn't pass up the employee discount, even though she could afford to pay three times the price for the products. With a politician father, parties were the norm of her everyday life, and good times hummed in her blood. Megan was always 'game on' in the name and pursuit of 'fun'.
Dani was a stereotypical blond, which would be fitting if she weren't a brunette. She was fun-loving, naïve, and innocent to a fault. Her family didn't have the money for Dani go to school, so she worked the day shift at her parents' local coffee shop. She loved her job and her customers adored her.
With Megan's lust for adventure and all things odd, and Dani's natural instincts to follow Megan's lead, it never failed the three would generally find themselves somewhere 'weird' and usually in trouble. And Natalie knew tonight would be no exception.
"Okay, Meg." Natalie finally broke into their conversation. "Where are you taking me?"
Her friends giggled excitedly.
Dani reached over, grabbed her hand, and gently kissed the back of it. "Nat, you really need to take a load off. You're going to get all wrinkly before you're thirty if you don't let go of all that stress."
Megan was still giggling beside her. "Dani's right, Nat. Now that the Marsden project is finished and on its way to print, it's time you let those gorgeous curls down and cut loose! Hell, we haven't spent any time with you since you were assigned that account. So tonight, you are ours."
"Well, for a little while anyway." Dani wagged her brows.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Natalie asked nervously, glancing from one to the other. "Oh God, what are the two of you dragging me into?"
Neither one answered.
Megan and Dani resumed their chatter and Natalie once again tuned them out, wishing she were sitting in her apartment, enjoying complete silence and working her way through a bottle of red wine.