Invitation Only and Grand Farewells

Chapter: 1

Rating: PG

A kiss could have several different meanings. A token of friendship. A quiet exploration of feelings. An expression of love. The start of something. The end of something. And just about everything else in between.

Over the past several weeks Lou had kissed Mary twice. The first time she was sure was out of relief, out of friendship. Happiness even. But the second time was different. Sexy and seductive. Almost raw with emotion.

But the kisses stopped. Lou met Charlene McGuire. And she consumed his every thought. Little did Mary know that Lou had to do something. Anything. Because the thought of her with Paul Van Dillon was much more than he could take.

xxxxx

Mary Richards was finally a free women. Her night in jail wasn't harrowing but it wasn't a picnic either. She was happy to be home with the entire thing behind her. But truth be told she would do it all over again. She stood her ground and proved to herself, and to Mr. Grant, that she was a confident newswoman.

"Thanks for picking me up." she sat down on the sofa. "I would have felt awkward if my parents came instead."

Lou sat down in the chair across from her. "You were in jail for not revealing your source, not for some crime."

"I know, but still." she slipped off her heels.. "It's the principal of the thing. They still have these illusions about me and my life. I'd like to keep it that way."

He nodded. "I understand. I feel the same way about my daughters."

"If I had to do it all again, I would."

Lou smiled. "I know you would." he told her. "I'm very proud of you."

"I'm just glad it wasn't Ted. I don't think he would have lasted two seconds in that cell."

"Ted would have crumbled in the courtroom." he was positive of that. "He's not half the newsman you are." and he meant it, he was proud of her.

Mary smiled. "Newswoman." she corrected him.

"Newswoman." he agreed. "Now why don't you take the rest of the day to rest and tonight we'll all go out to dinner to celebrate. We have to do something to make up for that awful going away party Sue Ann threw together."

"Can we just leave her out all together this time?"

"Of course." he got up from the chair. "I'll pick you up around seven thirty."

"Sounds good." she followed him to the door. "Thanks again, Mr. Grant."

Her turned to face her and smiled. "You're welcome." and then he leaned in, kissing her quickly on the lips. "Try to get some sleep."

Mary smiled as she closed the door behind him. Something felt different between them. She felt like they were on more of an equal level than before.

xxxxx

When Mary arrived at the Red Lantern for Ted's birthday party with her date, Paul, she had gotten a disapproving look from the guys, but especially from Mr. Grant. In fact those looks continued throughout the evening. It was almost as if she was doing something wrong.

Things seemed to be winding down. The guests were starting to leave. Ted was so wrapped up in his gifts that you would have thought he was reliving his childhood. Paul had left to get the car and Mary sat, waiting for him.

Lou pulled up a chair beside her. "Where's Mr. Universe?"

"Very funny." she said, not being able to stop herself from smiling. "He went to get the car."

He nodded. "He's not really your type, huh?"

"He's...he could be my type."

"Uh huh." he sighed. "Does he know anything else other than skiing?"

Mary wasn't sure how to answer that. They really hadn't talked all that much. "I'm sure he does." she finally said. "Why don't you like him?"

"I never said I didn't like him. I just don't think he's for you, that's all."

"I'll keep that in mind."

His eyes roamed over her for the eighth time that night. She always looked great but tonight there was something that made her even more beautiful. He wasn't always good at putting his thoughts or feelings into words.

And he had no idea what the hell he was doing. His hands were on her face and he was leaning into her. But it was Mary that initiated the kiss. It was exquisitely delicate and excruciatingly slow. Overflowing with such passion and need that it could have went on forever.

Lou slowly pulled away from her. "Goodnight, Mary."

She couldn't even put her thoughts together. She just watched him as he walked away. Everything was such a blur. Paul's voice snapped her back to reality.

And when she went home that night she asked Paul to stay but not because of him but because of Lou, however wrong that was. Lou had turned her on with one kiss. Something that no other man had ever accomplished.

tbc...