Michael had met Gwen Channing a couple of years earlier on a flight from New York to Las Vegas. She was attending to the first class cabin, then about an hour into the flight, she was attending to him personally, giving him a blowjob in the galley of the 777. Gwen always gave him a call when she was in town.

Michael returned to his table in the corner and to his irritated date. “Who are they?” she snipped.

“Some students from the U. I recognized one of them from the interviews today,” he answered. “Did you order?”

As the evening progressed, he realized that Gwen was rambling on about an asshole passenger on a recent flight but his mind was on Mary Margaret Flynn. The truth was, she intrigued him. She wasn’t unattractive. Obviously not dating material, but still, she was smart and she had spirit, too. She’d proved that when she’d stood up to all of them that afternoon.

He was glad when a band took the stage. He could stop pretending that he was listening to Gwen.

Back to Maggie, he thought. The idea that she was attracted to him disappointed him somehow. She should be smarter than that. He wondered which guy at the table was with Maggie. And it was her birthday. I should have noticed on her resume, he thought. But then, he should have noticed the discrepancy in the People v. Lawson case. He was half convinced that the missed evidence had been sabotage on Hemphill’s part. I hate that little prick, he grimaced to himself.

Sipping his bourbon, he looked across the room to find Maggie looking straight at him. He smiled at her and she quickly looked away. He thought about her interview. She had an eye for detail. He could use someone like that on his team. It wouldn’t suck to poach a candidate out from under Rance Stockwell, either. Michael Rannigan always liked to win.

Decision made, Michael left Gwen at the table, found the hostess, and ordered three bottles of Bollinger for Maggie’s table. Removing a business card from his pocket, he scribbled a note on the back and directed that it be given to her. He returned to Gwen and watched as his order was delivered to the other table. Heads turned to look his way and he gave a brief salute of acknowledgment. Maggie, red of face, mouthed a ‘thank you.’

“You’re moving up in the world, Flynn,” Ben commented, toasting her with Rannigan’s champagne.

“Yeah, well,” she said, shrugging. “Don’t get used to it.” What the fuck?! she thought. He’d sent champagne, very expensive champagne, and a personal note. She could feel her face burning as she mouthed ‘thank you’ across the room. On the upside, he said the firm wanted to hire her. She glanced again at the card in her hand before slipping it into her purse. She’d definitely make that call tomorrow.

The band finished their set and Kevin returned to the table. “Maggie, open your presents now,” Casey commanded, taking charge of the envelopes and gi bags, passing them to her one by one. Maggie, grateful for the distraction, dutifully opened them all, graciously thanking everyone for their thoughtful gifts.

By the time her gifts were opened, it was nearly midnight. Des and Jacob stood to make their goodbyes and Marcus with his date were quick to follow. Maggie looked to Casey. “I’m kinda beat myself,” she said.

“Oh, you’re such a rookie!” Casey scolded. “Kev, are you staying?”

“We’re playing again in half an hour,” he said.

“Alex and I are headed out,” Ben said. “We’ll walk you home, Flynn.” Maggie smiled with relief. She didn’t want to stay and she didn’t want to walk home alone. Gathering her things, she hugged Casey and Kevin goodbye. “Just let me go and thank...” she began, but as she turned she realized that the table in the corner was now occupied by a different couple.

“Yeah, Studly left about half an hour ago,” Ben said. “Sorry, kid.”

“Oh, please!” she protested. “I just wanted to thank him for the wine.”

Alex and Ben smirked at each other and laughed. “But how did you want to thank him?” Alex laughed again, as they walked out into the cool spring evening, and Maggie felt herself blush for about the fiftieth time that night.

Safely locked inside her second-floor walk-up brownstone apartment about ve blocks from the Blue Note, she went to the bay window facing the street to wave at Ben and Alex. She knew they’d wait until they were sure she was safely inside. They blew her kisses before walking away arm in arm toward their own place.

The party had been fun. She loved her friends dearly and tried not to think about what would happen when they went their separate ways after graduation next Sunday. We’ll stay in touch, she told herself. For Pete’s sake, first up was Des and Jacob’s wedding in July. They’d all be together again in mere weeks at Des’s mother’s Martha’s Vineyard estate.

Maggie looked at the gift bags she’d set down just inside the doorway. Sighing, she decided to organize them tomorrow. She quickly showered and put on her bedtime uniform, cheeky panties and a black tank top, before slipping into her bed. She discovered that she wasn’t sleepy, though, and found herself staring at the ceiling and replaying the day.

The interview, the way they’d snickered at her. He hadn’t snickered. He’d taken her very seriously and she’d had the feeling that one of the other asswipes at the table was now in dutch. Good! she thought.

She found it unimaginable that he’d come waltzing into the club that night. Seeing, no, talking to, Michael Rannigan twice in the same day. And he’d remembered her name. But he was clearly there with a gorgeous blonde. Sigh. Then of course, Casey had spilled about it being her birthday. She’d been so embarrassed; she hoped she’d said something remotely articulate, though, truthfully she couldn’t recall exactly what she’d said. And he’d sent champagne in honor of her birthday. Bollinger, for fuck’s sake.

Suddenly, she remembered the card she’d stuck in her purse and she got out of bed to retrieve it. Sitting cross-legged back on the bed, she read and reread the card, front and back. We’d like you offer you a job at Murphy, Rannigan. Call my assistant tomorrow to set up a meeting next week. Happy Birthday, Maggie. M.R.

She lightly stroked her fingers over the words he’d written, then felt silly for doing it. She knew she had a serious crush on him. It was ridiculous, really. More out of her league he could not be. And there were rumors about his being a player. She wondered about the woman with him at the club. Flavor of the month? Flavor of the night? She didn’t care. He was interested in her, Maggie Flynn, in having her work at Murphy, Rannigan. It’s a start, she thought.

It had been disappointing not being able to thank him for the wine. She looked at the front of the card again. Michael’s email was there just below the firm’s phone number. Her digital alarm clock blinked 1:43. She could email him a thank you. He’d see it in the morning. She felt her heart pound. Was that pushing it a little? After all, he gave her the card. Wouldn’t he expect her to use it?

She moved to her desk and fired up her laptop. After composing a message and editing it five times, her finger wavered over the Send button. She glanced at the clock again. It was now 2:15. Nothing ventured, she thought, and she sent the message.

“Let’s go,” Gwen said, when the band finished playing. Michael mentally rolled his eyes. She was being a pain tonight. Next time she was in town, he would probably have other plans. He’d thought to stop by Maggie’s table again to say goodbye but by then she was busy opening gifts so he’d just followed Gwen out the door. It occurred to him that it was odd that he’d even thought about speaking to her again. Probably too much bourbon, he thought, shaking his head.

They caught a cab back to the Upper East Side where he lived. “I want to go to Bemelmans,” Gwen said as the cab neared his neighborhood. Of course you do, he thought. All he wanted to do was go home and get laid.

“Drop us at the Carlyle, please,” he said to the driver. By the time he’d paid for the cab, Gwen was already inside the bar. When he caught up with her he realized why they’d had to stop here. A group of her friends was ensconced in a corner banquette. She’d wanted to show him off.

There is definitely no next time with Gwen, he thought to himself, but he plastered on his PR smile. “Hello, ladies,” he charmed, “apparently we’re late.” Gwen beamed as her friends gave her envious looks. He ordered a round for the table and chatted amiably with everyone for a while. During a lull in the conversation while the pianist played a song the table had requested, he leaned into Gwen. “Are you ready to go now?”

“Yes, we can go,” she said, running her hand up the inside of his leg and giving him a coy look.

They quickly said their goodbyes and left, walking the three blocks to his apartment building on 79th. As they rode the elevator to the 21st floor, Gwen kept her eyes on the numbers over the door, but she reached over to stroke the front of his pants where his erection was growing harder.

Michael unlocked the door to his apartment and let her in, stopping to drop his keys in the bowl on the foyer table. He took off his jacket and untied his tie. “Can I get you a drink?” he asked on his way to get his own. He paused to put the television on a sports channel.

“I’ll have champagne,” she said, with a trace of pout in her voice.

He rolled his eyes. “No champagne, can I get you some chardonnay instead?”

“I suppose,” she simpered. He grabbed a Heineken for himself.

When he returned to the living room she had kicked off her shoes and was relaxing on the tan oversized leather sectional that faced the television and the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows beyond, opening to his solarium on the terrace. The city lights twinkled like a sparkling carpet below them. This was why he, a happily single man, had bought a four-bedroom apartment. It had the best view in the entire building. He handed Gwen her wine and sank down beside her to sip his beer and watch tv, picking up the remote to turn up the volume.

“Oh, baby, are you sure you want to watch silly old sports?” she asked him. “I had something else in mind.” She moved to kneel in front of him and undid his belt and then his fly.

He smiled down at her. “Are they mutually exclusive?” he asked, grinning and arching his eyebrow. She winked up at him and pulled back the waistband of his boxer briefs, freeing his impressive erection. He groaned and rested his head against the back of the sofa with his eyes closed as she took him in her mouth. In spite of being a demanding princess, Gwen was great at giving head. She worked him with her tongue and slid her lips up and down his shaft, sucking like a Dyson.

He was considering trying to hold off coming, make it last longer, when he heard his phone blip, indicating an email. Glancing down beside him on the sofa, he saw that the message was from Maggie. Michael picked up the phone and keyed in his passcode. Gwen immediately stopped what she was doing.

“Oh, hell no, you are not answering a message in the middle of a blowjob!” she exclaimed.

“I’m just holding off, baby, we don’t want this over so fast,” he said. “I want to fuck you. Go to the bedroom and get ready. I’ll be right there.” He gave her a quick kiss, and she headed to the bedroom, slightly mollified.

Checking the time he saw that it was 2:16. Maggie sent him a message after two in the morning? He was definitely intrigued.

Dear Mr. Rannigan,

I wanted to say thank you for the champagne you sent to my friends and me last night. It was completely unnecessary and extremely thoughtful. I’m excited about your job offer. I will definitely call your office tomorrow to set up an appointment. Again, thank you so much. I look forward to working with you.

Maggie Flynn

A smile curled his lips as he reread the message. So formal and professional. Nothing at all to indicate what her eyes completely gave away. She probably assumed he’d read it in the morning. He wanted to respond now.

Dear Ms. Flynn,

You are most welcome for the champagne. I felt badly that I crashed your birthday celebration with all your friends. Champagne seemed the least I could do. I am excited at the prospect of having a brilliant young legal mind working on our team. So please do call and schedule that appointment. And, if we’re to be working together, I’ll have to insist that we drop the formalities. We’ll be just Michael and Maggie. It will be simpler that way, don’t you think? And now that it’s actually tomorrow, I’ll wish you a very Happy Birthday.

Go to sleep, Maggie. I’ll see you next week.

Sincerely, just Michael