Well, here it is. My first multi-chapter fic in just under ten years-we can thank Loki and Darcy for shaking my muse back into action!

The background for this story is based on personal experience. This past summer I had the joy of travelling to the same places I'm sending Darcy; if I could, I'd go back to southern France in a heartbeat. The whole romance bit, though… that's where my imagination kicked in :)

This is an AU story-that means no gods or magic. Also, later chapters will be rated mature, so younger viewers be warned. As always, reviews are nourishment for an author's soul-please take a few moments to leave some feedback!


Mondays sucked. Royally, unarguably the worst day of the week.

At least, this was what was going through Darcy Lewis's mind as she raced through the office towards her desk at 8:45am-15 minutes later than her start time. Even if her boss wasn't a stickler for a minute here or there, Darcy had made it a habit to be ten minutes early every day. But on this particular morning, the entire world had conspired against her, from her alarm somehow resetting its daylight savings time, to the leaking dishwasher, to the construction blocking her bus's route (at least the bus had been on time). She'd felt like a sprinter, jumping hurdle over hurdle on her way to a finish line called Globalcomm Industries.

As she snapped her laptop into its docking station and began logging onto her system, her boss stuck her head out of her office.

"Darcy! You're finally here. When you're settled in I need to see you in my office pronto."

"Ok, Janet!" Shit, the young woman thought, the bottom of her stomach falling to her heels. That dickhead Bryan is always late and she's never called him on it.

Resigned to the verbal reprimand awaiting her, Darcy finished logging in and straightened her clothes before heading over to her manager's office.

Janet was sitting at her desk, focused on an email she was typing. "Hi-give me a quick sec and I'll be with you."

"Sure, no prob." Darcy stood in the doorway awkwardly. A few of her teammates who were walking by waved, and she felt like there was a large sign on her forehead letting everyone know she was about to be raked over the coals for her tardiness. She was looking down at her cardigan, making sure there wasn't a scarlet T on it, when her boss addressed her.

"Oh goodness, you're not still standing there, are you?" She waved the young woman into her office. "Please sit down. Oh, and close the door first."

Darcy did as she was instructed and sat down in one of the two chairs opposite her boss. Before Janet could even open her mouth to speak, she began to apologise. "Look, I'm really sorry I was late. Everything went wrong this morning and I know it's not an excuse, but I swear it won't happen again."

"Darcy, you're in early every morning," the other woman replied offhandedly. "I don't care if you're late a morning here or there. It happens to all of us."

"Oh." Darcy sat there, staring at the other woman, completely at a loss for words (which did not happen often). "Umm... then why did you want to see me?"

"I received an email late on Friday announcing a global conference in July. Head office has decided to roll out those new functionalities we've been hearing about, and each region has been asked to send a representative." She smiled and waited for Darcy's reaction, which came out as a series of stuttered utterances. "Why you? Your work on the Powell project showed initiative, leadership, tenacity and-most of all-organisational agility. Ted's still talking about how you managed to gain incremental funding for the project through your discussions with Innovation."

This was the level of recognition she'd been working for. Heck, it was what anyone anywhere worked for. And she'd worked so much overtime on that project, from late nights to weekends, to ensure a smooth transition from Powell's old system to the one Globalcomm had sold them on. As usual, Sales had made some pretty wild promises and the development team-of which she was a part-was left with the task of either trying to make the impossible happen, or negotiating alternative solutions when it was impossible.

She stood up, pacing the length of her boss's desk, and finally managed to make her mouth work. "Wow. I mean, holy shit, you're not kidding, are you?"

Janet laughed. "No. I'm not kidding. You want to know the kicker? The conference is in Southern France."

Darcy fell back in her chair-or maybe it was the other chair, or perhaps the floor, as she wasn't in a frame of mind to notice such trivialities-and took a deep shaky breath. "Please tell me you're not joking."

"Nope. We're talking the French Riviera; hot sun, sandy beaches, the Mediterranean... And you'll be there for a week. On Globalcomm's budget." At this she frowned slightly. "I just need to do a bit of creative accounting with my departmental budget, but I'm getting you there one way or another, Darcy. More than anyone here at our New York office, you've earned this opportunity."

"Thank you. Oh my God thank you so much." She stood up and was halfway to the door before a thought came to mind. "But what about Candace, and Bryan, and Vijay? I mean, they have more seniority than me. What if they're upset about this?" She really didn't think Vijay would be upset; he was her lunch buddy and, after all, he was the one who'd ensured that everyone knew how hard she'd been working on the project. Candace and Bryan, on the other hand? There were going to be a lot of uncomfortable silences in the near future…

"Then let them come to me. I am the head of this department because Ted trusts my ability to make decisions that are sound for the business, whether or not some people think they are fair." When she spoke again, her tone was softer. "I'll send you a copy of the email as well as contact information for our travel agency; I suggest you contact them to book your flight as soon as possible. And ask them to provide a cost for economy and business class-sometimes they land some great deals for business class."

"Business class. Gotcha," Darcy acknowledged incredulously. Double holy shit. She walked back to her desk, feeling the eyes of her teammates on her. Bryan's desk was still unmanned, and she felt a sense of pride in knowing that the work ethic she adhered to was being recognised not only by her boss, but by upper management too.

Finally seated at her desk, she opened PowerPoint to work on her summary of the Powell project. First, however, there were more important things to do. She grabbed her iPhone and texted her best friend Jane.

OMG! You'll never guess where I'm going in July!