Switching Places (Escape Into Romance)

Switching Places
Kathrine Emrick
COPYRIGHT

 

 

First published in Australia by South Coast Publishing, November 2012.
Copyright © Kathrine Emrick (2012)

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be circulated in writing of any publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published without a similar condition including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

 

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Chapter One

Fairmaiden typed a message to Compuking. "I can always count on you to make me laugh can't I?"

And Compuking answered her quickly. "It's easy to do that when I am talking to you. You always make my mornings brighter."

Angela Gray dressed as she talked to her online friend. Well, he was more than a friend in her eyes. And yet she wasn't ready to call him a boyfriend or even an online interest. She'd been burned recently and all she needed right now is a friend.

Still, standing there in her bra and panties it made her blush a bit to think of him talking to her while she got dressed.

"I have to go. Meeting a friend." She really did need to hurry if she was going to meet Jill for coffee before work. But if she could have stayed here a bit longer with him then she would have.

His answer didn't come right away this time. Funny, how you could guess at emotions from the way people typed online. She imagined him sitting there, disappointed she was leaving, and trying to hide it.

"Okay," he finally typed back to her. "I have to go too. To work. I need to get to work."

"LOL. Okay. Work it is then. Talk to you tonight maybe?"

This time the answer was immediate. "For sure."

The drive to the coffee shop near where she worked didn't even take her fifteen minutes but Jill was already sitting there waiting for her. Jill and she had been best friends since forever. If there was anyone who could give Angela a little female perspective on her online relationships, it would be her.

"So tell me more about this guy you've been talking to online." Jill leaned closer across the table at the outdoor café and gave Angela a curious look.

Angela shrugged a slim shoulder and took a sip of her cappuccino. "What do you want to know?"

Jill screwed up her face and said, "Well...duh. Everything." She giggled and Angela smiled at her antics. Her outrageous friend was just what she needed after a bad breakup and the demands of work and well just life in general. Dorian and his little-boy tantrums had really left a bad taste for men in her mouth. But that was behind her now. Tomorrow was another day as they say. And her friend was here to make her feel better. Even if she was trying to live vicariously through Angela's own recent online dating experiences.

"We haven't actually been talking as in voice talking, Jill. We've been communicating by text in an online chat room. He sounds like an interesting guy but I don't think it's going to go any further than what it is right now. He's…a friend."

"You mean like the kind of friend I am or the kind of friend you would take home if you had the chance?"

"Jill!" Angela was embarrassed, looking around to see if anyone was listening to them.

Jill pouted. "Oh come on. You mean to tell me if he wanted to meet in person you wouldn't go for it?"

Angela studied her friend for a moment, thinking. She and her online friend hadn't gotten to that part yet. It hadn't even come up. "Well...perhaps I would, I don't know. I don't really know if I'd feel comfortable doing that. He's just…kind of exciting, you know?"

"Hmm...well what if he wants to meet you? Couldn't you just meet somewhere there are a lot of people?"

Angela considered that. "I could do that, I guess. But we haven't even discussed meeting. Let's not rush it, okay? I don't even know his real name. He seems a bit shy about getting personal with me. He's just a sweet guy who wants to talk. Or he could just be a weirdo."

Jill snickered along with her friend at the joke. "Maybe, but what if he's not? What if you're missing out? This could be the guy. You know? The-with-a-capital-"T"? Tell me more about him. What does he do?"

"Didn't I tell you that already?"

"Yeah. But humor a friend who hasn't had a date in forever and tell me again."

Angela sighed and then went through the whole thing again about how he had told her that he owned an exclusive computer store in Sydney and lived in a spacious apartment and was a single dad who loved his son very much. Which may have been true but then again it could all be a story meant to suck her in. Her gut was telling her he was genuine but she had been wrong before. And that was why she was okay with taking this so slow.

"So he must be pretty well off then, yeah? If he owns his own store?" Angela beamed at her eager friend.

"Trust you to home in on the bank balance, Jill. I don't care if he is well off or poor, you know I don't care about that. He is just good to talk to. And that's really all I need. For now. He seems to like a lot of the things I do. We have the same interests and he's just so easy to talk to. It passes the time."

Jill made a snorting sound. "A girl needs more than talk, Angela."

Angela smiled at her friend. She knew what Jill meant. And she hadn't exactly sworn men off, but she didn't feel like she needed to throw herself headfirst into anything, either.

"You realize that this is your life you're talking about?" Angela leaned back in her chair and waved a meaningful hand in the air. "You need to become more involved with it. It's passing you by."

Angela thought about that on her way in to work. The rush-hour gridlock gave her plenty of time to think. She had to concede that Jill had a point. She was letting her life pass her by. And why? Because that rat Dorian had burned her so badly that she never let anyone else get close to her anymore. Across an internet chat line was close enough for her. She and Mister Compuking hadn't even sent photos to each other yet.

But maybe that should change. Maybe she should take a chance on someone. Someone like her online friend? Yeah, right. She didn't even know who he was other than a great guy to talk to. It would be complete idiocy to start something more meaningful with him. He could be an axe murderer or some old guy or worse. No, it was too stupid to even think about.

When she got to work her boss called her in to see him. "So, Angela how are things going?"

Now this was weird. Her boss never asked anyone how things were going. He just expected things to be going great.

"Um, good," Angela said hesitantly. "I've got that story under control..."

He put a hand up to stop her. "You don't need to worry about that. I've transferred that to Foster, he can take over from where you left off. I have another assignment for you."

Uh oh. This was not good. She had been working for the Ballina Chronicle for three years now and this was the first time the boss had taken her off a story. She didn't like the sound of this.

But if he caught on to her apprehension he didn't show it. "I need someone to go to the Sydney Computer Expo and do an in-depth exposé on any crooked dealings that go on at these things. I have it on good authority that there are a few underhanded things going on and I need you to sniff them out."

Angela's heart began to pound. This wasn't her area of expertise at all. "Um...sir? What happened to Johnson? Isn't it his job to work on these types of stories?"

"Well, yes, it is, but the idiot has broken his leg. Some sort of stupid skiing accident or something. He's going to be laid up for several weeks and I need this story yesterday. You understand?"

She didn't, but she nodded her head yes.

When she nodded he continued, "You will need to leave on Friday so you can be there for the weekend. I've got you plane tickets already. I know this is short notice but it can't be helped. You're one of the best I have Angela. I can trust you with this unlike a lot of your co-workers. Questions?" He didn't even wait for her to answer. "Good. Off you go then. Tie up any lose ends you've got here. I expect a fantastic story from you next week."

She left his office feeling like she had been caught in a whirlwind. Or a ringer. Running a hand through her short ash blonde hair she took a couple of deep breaths to try and calm herself down. This was so unexpected and she wasn't sure that she was up for the job. And as the day went on her anxiety increased.

She'd always wanted to go to Sydney, though. And, here was a thought. 'Compuking' said he lived in Sydney. Maybe…

Suddenly she was looking forward to the trip.

That night when she logged onto the chat room she was relieved to see that 'compuking' was already logged in. She really needed someone to talk to about this unexpected turn of events.

Chapter Two

Cody Unger felt his heart rate kick up a notch when he saw 'fairmaiden' log on. He had been chatting with her for several months now and he really liked her. There was so much he wasn't telling her, though. He wondered what would happen if he told her the truth about how old he actually was. Not the thirty-eight years he had originally told her, but just seventeen. Yeah, that would go down real well, he thought.

Worse, what would happen if she ever wanted to meet him? He wouldn't be able to. Apart from lying to her about his age he had been telling her all about a life that wasn't even his. The life he'd been using was really his father's. He'd been trading places with his dad to impress this woman, and his dad didn't even know.

It wasn't that he had meant to lie to her. But she was a successful older woman. Cody couldn't very well tell her he was still at school. So when she had started asking questions about him he had told her things about his father's life. And it had just snowballed from there. It was all true, every word of it. Except the part where he said it was him.

Now as they connected they chatted for a while about mundane things and he started to relax. It was always a bit stressful for him when they first started chatting. He was so worried he would forget some of the stuff he'd told her previously. He wished he could just tell her the truth.

All was going great and he was getting into the conversation when she typed, "So...my boss called me into his office today to give me a new assignment."

Cody knew that she was a journalist and thought that it was a really cool job.

"He told me that I was to come to Sydney to do a story on the Computer Expo. Well, more like an exposé than a story. I was wondering if..."

She paused in her messages and Cody held his breath. Oh please oh please oh please no.

But then she typed the rest of her thought. "Are you going to be at the expo? Maybe we could meet up and talk in person?"

Cody nearly had a heart attack. Oh no, oh no oh no oh no this was bad. He knew his father was going to the expo because he had been going to go with his father and help out. But now? What to do?

"That sounds like a great idea," he typed back to her. Then his brain caught up with his fingers. What? Why did he just say that? He smacked a hand between his eyes. Stupid!

Her words popped up on the screen. "I'm glad you feel that way. Maybe we should introduce ourselves properly then, so we know who we are. LOL. What do you think?"

What did he think? He thought he was an idiot, that's what he thought. But she was waiting for him to say something back.

So, biting his lip, he typed back, "Okay..."

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