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3 Book Romance Bundle: "Her Last Love Affair" & "Loving Him Peacefully" & "Unwel

(3 Book Romance Bundle)

Her Last Love Affair

Loving Him Peacefully

Unwelcome Reunion

Copyright 2016

Published by Carla Davis at Shakespir

Shakespir Edition License Notes

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents

Her Last Love Affair

Loving Him Peacefully

Unwelcome Reunion

Her Last Love Affair

by

Clara James

Copyright © 2013 by Clara James

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Her Last Love Affair

All rights reserved.

This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. No part of this work may be used, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording and faxing, or by any information storage and retrieval system by anyone but the purchaser for their own personal use.

This Book may not be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Clara James, except in the case of a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages for the sake of a review written for inclusions in a magazine, newspaper, or journal—and these cases require written approval from Clara James prior to publication. Any reproduction or other unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.

Chapter One

Workaholic

Kyle Needham slammed his open palm on the desk and thrust his chair back. “You haven’t got enough to go on, Allie,” he insisted. “If we publish this, he’s going to sue.”

The young woman he spoke to paced the width of his office. “It’s the truth,” she argued, tossing the words over her shoulder. “Every single word of it is the truth. He can’t get away with pretending to be Mr. Squeaky Clean.” She continued to stride, her long legs taking her across the office in four steps. Reaching the wall, she spun on her heel and made short work of the return journey.

“I’m not saying you’re wrong,” Kyle sighed, recognizing the stubborn glare in her fiery brown eyes. “But you do not have enough evidence.”

“What about the statements from his ex-wife?” she quickly asked, halting her feet directly opposite his desk and folding her arms beneath her bosom.

Needham slowly shook his head, refusing to meet her stare. “It’s not enough, Allie, and you know it.”

Sucking her bottom lip between her teeth, she chewed thoughtfully on the soft flesh. She waited patiently for her boss to lift his eyes to hers, but sensed the wait was in vain. “I’m not letting this go,” she told him, as she flicked her head, tossing a few strands of dark brunette hair from her face.

“This isn’t up for discussion any more,” Needham responded flatly. “I’m reassigning you and as far as I’m concerned, that’s an end to it.”

“But-” she began.

“That’s the end of it,” he repeated, his tone stern.

A tiny muscle in Allie’s jaw clenched as she fought to maintain an already slender hold on her temper. “You want more evidence,” she huffed, exhaling a breath she’d been holding for almost too long. “Fine, I’ll get more evidence, but don’t take me off the story.”

Shaking his balding, weary head, Needham cast his eyes to the computer screen to his right. Fixing his gaze there, he pulled his chair back under the table and, with a sigh, lifted his hands to the keyboard.

“Chief,” Allie urged. “Chief,” she repeated more loudly than before, as it became apparent that she was not going to regain his attention. Allowing her arms to flop listlessly by her sides, she glanced helplessly at the ceiling. “I’ve been working on this for two months, you can’t just-”

The case for her story came to an abrupt halt, as a light tap sounded on the office door’s window. It was followed by the slow creak of hinges and a scruffy mop of sandy blonde hair that appeared in the opening. “Sorry to interrupt,” the face beneath the hair mumbled.

“It’s fine,” Needham stated, before Allie could open her mouth to tell the newcomer to go away. “Come in, Grant.”

“Oh,” the nervous youngster blurted. “It’s okay, sir,” he added, shaking his head. “I just came to get Allie.” Turning his focus towards the irascible female reporter, he flashed an apologetic smile. “There’s a phone call for you.”

“Just take a message,” she sighed, barely looking at the boyish-faced new recruit, whom she’d quickly come to view as being like a pesky younger brother.

“Umm,” he stalled. “Well, it sounded kinda important,” he carefully insisted, stepping back a pace, as though he anticipated an explosion.

Her eyes quickly left the frightened looking Grant to find her editor smiling benignly at her.

“Go ahead,” he nudged, jerking his head toward the door. “We’re done here anyway, remember?”

“We’re not done,” she argued, taking a small step backwards. “I’m not going to leave this,” she added, pointing her index finger at her employer. Despite herself, she took another step backwards, extending her right hand behind her and reaching for the door handle. “I’ve never let a story go yet,” she reminded him.

Needham wasn’t sure whether that was indicative of a threat or a promise, but he watched her go unable to dismiss his admiration for her steely determination; something that had prompted him to hire her six years previously. Knowing that he’d only managed to win round one, he sighed in preparation or the inevitable round two.

Allie left the editor’s office, closing the door more firmly than was necessary.

“I’m sorry, Al,” Grant mumbled still lurking nearby, but careful to keep out of arm’s reach. “I didn’t know you were discussing something important.”

Closing her eyes, Allie tried to take a calming breath. It did little to help, but, by the time she opened her eyes again, she couldn’t quite find it within herself to be angry at the office gofer. “It’s all right,” she said, aware that the words were spoken with such lethargy that even she didn’t believe the sentiment. “He’s trying to kill the Pelzer exposé,” she explained, her feet moving apathetically towards her desk.

“Oh,” Grant responded. “That sucks,” he shrugged, knowing how many hours she had devoted to building the story and having spent a few late nights searching for background on her behalf.

Tossing him a glance, she nodded. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“But it’s not going to stop you, right?” he added, enthusiastically. “You’re Allie McLaren, nothing stands in your way.”

She managed a light chuckle, as she tried to show her gratitude for the impromptu pep talk. However, by the time she tossed herself into her chair, she couldn’t manage to keep the smile in place.

“Oh,” the young man added excitedly, placing a hand on her shoulder. “I know you said you weren’t interested, but that guy from the press conference last week keeps calling. He offered to take you to dinner on Friday, and if that’s no good, a movie on Saturday.”

Shaking her head, she picked up a pile of haphazardly scattered papers on her desk. “I told him, I’m too busy,” she sighed, repeating herself for what felt like the hundredth time.

“Well,” Grant urged, squeezing her tense shoulder beneath his long fingers. “He seems keen, so if you change your mind…” As his words trailed off, he quirked his eyebrows suggestively.

“Is that the phone call you dragged me out her for?” she demanded, ignoring the innuendo of his brow and rummaging frustratedly through the sheaves of paper.

“No,” he laughed, removing his hand and pointing at the phone in the far corner of her desk. “Line two,” he told her, before his head jerked up at the screech of his name. “Duty calls,” he muttered, following the direction of the impatient yell.

Allie raised her left hand in a half-hearted wave, before reaching for the telephone. Quickly gripping the receiver, she scooped it up onto her shoulder and clamping it to her cheek. With both hands once again free, she returned to her search through the mess on her desk. “Allie McLaren,” she said flatly into the phone.

“Oh, Ms. McLaren,” a female voice returned. “I’m calling from Dr. Reynolds office. He’d like you to come down to see him.”

The frantic movement of Allie’s fingers slowed, before coming to a complete halt. “What is it?” she asked in barely more than a whisper.

***

Dr. Reynold’s office was as homely as any doctor’s office can be. The cream colored walls were adorned with Monet prints and he offered his patients a high-backed brown leather chair. Everything on his mahogany desk was neatly arranged and, for reasons she couldn’t explain, Allie had always wanted to shift something out of line or, better still, tip his pen holder over.

This time, however, she paid no attention to the compulsively organized desk. Instead, she sat quietly and almost completely still. The only movement was the light swing of her right leg, which was crossed over its partner. She watched the black court shoe, as it swayed back and forth. Momentarily her eyes traveled to the bruise on the inside of her ankle, which was not very well masked by the tan pantyhose she wore. Another war wound; an injury she’d picked up while in the scrum of a press conference. Her brain was unable to focus on anything other than the slow, hypnotic motion of her foot. It was as though anything else, anything even slightly more significant, would be overwhelming.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” The deep voice came from behind her, but she didn’t bother to turn around. She could hear the soft brush of his pant legs, as he made his way swiftly across the room. Allie caught a brief glimpse of the doctor in her peripheral vision, as he approached her right hand side and continued his route around the desk.

“That’s all right,” she said, her gaze lifting from her shoe, as she forced a smile.

Dr. Reynolds didn’t return the grin. The middle-aged man, with a slight potbelly, gently smoothed over his tie as he sat down in a chair almost identical to the one Allie was using. “Thanks for coming in so quickly,” he nodded, running a hand through his black hair, which was speckled with strands of white.

“Well,” Allie murmured. “You’re secretary said it was important.”

The doctor offered a hum in response, while the hand that had been in his hair dropped to the side of his face. One chunky index finger rubbed thoughtfully at his jaw. “We’ve got the results from your blood test,” he stated. “I’m afraid it’s not good news.”

“I’m still anemic?” Allie offered, trying to preempt what the doctor had to say.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor said, looking Allie directly in the eyes. “It’s much worse than anemia.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Allie,” Reynolds said gently. “You’ve got leukemia.”

There followed a deathly silence. Allie could no longer hear the steady roll of traffic outside, she couldn’t hear the hum of the air conditioning. “Cancer?” The word was half question, half resigned statement.

“I’m so sorry,” Reynolds responded calmly and professionally.

“But…” Allie stammered, her head shaking in disbelief. “I…No,” she eventually insisted, as though that simple statement of denial would mean that it wasn’t true.

“You’re suffering from the acute myeloid form of the disease,” Dr. Reynolds said in the same even manner he’d used since he walked into the room. “I want to put you on an aggressive course of chemo right away.”

Allie’s head stilled, as she began to digest the doctor’s words. The beat of her heart became more prominent, the rhythm no more quick than usual, but every pulse stronger than the one before. Her breathing slowed, as she drew in deep lungfuls of oxygen. “Am I going to die?” she asked simply, fixing Reynolds with an unflinching stare.

There was a moment’s pause before he responded. “There’s a chance that with strong doses of chemotherapy and radio-”

“How long?” she interrupted, knowing that the man’s brief pause answered her question more truthfully than the positive spin he was now trying to put on the situation.

Reynolds cocked his head to one side, regarding the stoic features of the young woman before him. “I don’t know,” he honestly replied. “These things aren’t an exact science. It depends how quickly the cancer spreads to your organs or…” The thought trailed off, as he noticed the glazed eyes of his patient. “Allie,” he nudged. “I know an excellent oncologist.”

Allie was no longer looking at her doctor. Instead, she was looking through him. Her eyes landed on the window, the thousands of people that were going about their daily business. She couldn’t help but wonder what was on their minds. What stupid, unimportant things were they worrying about? Moreover, what inconsequential things had she spent the last fifteen years worrying about? How much time had been wasted? How many opportunities squandered?

Dr. Reynolds was still talking, explaining her options and the success rates of chemotherapy. But Allie didn’t hear him, as she rose slowly to her feet. “Thank you for your time,” she mumbled, tossing the strap of her leather briefcase over her shoulder.

“I really think we need to discuss this further,” Reynolds replied, placing his hands on the desk and pushing himself upright. However, he knew that his young patient was no longer listening. “It doesn’t have to be right now,” he quickly added, hoping to draw her attention back to him. “But if we start chemo as soon as possible, there’s a chance-”

Allie had already reached the door when those words found her ears. Her fingers firmly gripping the handle, she twisted her head over her shoulder. “An aggressive course?” she asked, repeating his words from a few minutes earlier. “Which means it’s going to make me sick, very sick. I’ll have to spend days, maybe even weeks or months in the hospital and then what?” she demanded.

Reynolds made no effort to reply, he knew it was a rhetorical question. He simply offered a sympathetic shake of his head.

“I don’t want to die like that,” she insisted. “If this is it, then I’m going to make the most of it while I’m still able to.” Her unwavering statement ended with a smile. “I’m not wasting any more time,” she told him, yanking the door open and striding through the waiting area with her head held high.

Chapter Two

Breaking Out

Three soft taps reverberated from the door and filled the small living room, causing Allie to wrench herself from her comfortable corner of the couch. Tossing the book she’d been reading onto the glass coffee table in front of her, she padded barefoot across the hardwood floor. With a quick glance at her watch, she reached the door and gently pulled it open.

“Hey!” The greeting was joined by a swirl of action, as a blonde-haired woman breezed across the threshold. “I know you said two,” she quickly added, barely pausing for breath, as she pulled at the tight-fitting skirt that was riding up her thighs. “I got caught at this stupid meeting, you know how it is.” It was barely an apology, but it was as close as the woman ever came to offering one.

“It’s okay,” Allie responded, eyes wide as she found herself once again amazed by the mass of energy that was squeezed into an incredible hour-glass figure. She had been friends with Rosalind Evans for almost five years. And, in all of that time, she’d been at a loss to quite explain why. On the surface of it, the women had nothing in common. They were in the same business, sort of, but writing for a fashion magazine was hardly Allie’s idea of serious journalism. Rosalind was also a party girl, more concerned with having a good time than with where her life was heading. If she wanted to get ahead in her career, she did it by flirting with her male features editor, not by putting in any additional work. In short, she was the polar opposite of Allie. And, if Allie were honest with herself, perhaps that’s why she was so drawn to the wild child. Rosalind did all of the things Allie couldn’t or wouldn’t let herself do. So she was able to live vicariously through her best friend.

Closing the door, while she mulled over the truth of that thought, Allie spoke again, “I just wanted to ask your advice about something.”

“Ooh,” Rosalind exaggeratedly cooed. “You, asking for my advice?” she chuckled. “You’re the grown up one, Allie, remember?”

“I know,” Allie agreed with a nod, as she gestured towards the couch. “That’s why I need your advice.”

Not needing to be asked twice, Rosalind followed the silent invitation to sit. Although, with her thigh hugging skirt, she could not lounge back in the seat and had to remain perched precariously on the edge. “So,” she sighed, flicking her overly long bangs from her eyes. “What can I do for you?”

Settling beside Rosalind, Allie tucked one leg beneath her butt and sank back against the couch’s plush cushions. “This might sound kinda strange,” she confessed, with a self-deprecating smile. “I mean…” she added, but didn’t seem able to proceed from there. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past two days,” she said, slightly more confident with the change of tack. “And I’ve decided that I want something different from life.”

“Okay,” Rosalind slowly offered, elongating the ‘o’. “You’re going to join a commune?” she asked.

“No,” Allie responded, laughing at the absurdity of the notion.

“Good, because I wouldn’t have been able to help you with that.”

Dipping her face, Allie searched the floor, her gaze focusing on the strange patterns made by the knots in the wood. “Listen,” she sighed, wringing her hands awkwardly, before tiring of her their movement and thrusting them between her knees. “I was just wondering if you would share your secret.”

“Secret?” Rosalind’s eyes shifted unconsciously from left to right, as she tried to decrypt her friend’s request.

“Yeah,” came the quick response. “How do you attract so many guys?”

Rosalind let forth a scoff that caused her to snort in a very unladylike manner. “Allie, plenty of men are interested in you. You’re not interested in them, that’s the problem.”

Allie blinked, as she shook her head. “No, you don’t understand. What I mean is how do you go about having a…” she hovered over the word, trying to find the right way to complete the sentence. “…casual thing.”

A slow grin quirked Rosalind’s glossy pink lips, until she was beaming broadly. “You want to have a fling?” she asked, the smile so evident in her voice that Allie didn’t need to see her face.

“Maybe,” Allie shrugged defensively, unsure why her friend’s gentle teasing had prompted that reaction in her.

“Allie, you’re not really the one night stand type.”

“What if I’ve changed?” Allie responded, her face still a picture of solemnity.

Rosalind’s brow began to crease thoughtfully, as the large grin faded from her features. “What’s all this about?” she asked, making a move to lean back into the couch, but stopping herself, when her skirt gripped her more tightly.

“People change,” Allie replied, her eyes drifting to her own legs and the blue jeans that covered them.

“I know,” the blonde woman nodded. “But not you,” she added, offering another flash of her teasing smile.

This time she was rewarded with a reluctant mirroring of the gesture. “I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking,” Allie confessed. “About what I’ve been doing with my life. I’ve always been so focused. First on my education, then getting my dream job, then working my butt off to be the very best.”

“You are the best,” Rosalind told her matter-of-factly, with no hint of humor or insincerity.

“But I’ve missed out on so much,” Allie responded, with a frustrated sigh. “I never really got to let my hair down.”

“And now you want to?” her friend supplied, filling in the blanks.

“Yeah,” Allie nodded.

“Why now?”

“Why not now?” she countered. “I mean, there may not be a tomorrow, right?”

Chuckling lightly, Rosalind couldn’t argue that piece of perfect logic, even if it sounded as though a very different woman was sitting by her side. “I’m still not sure you’re the love ’em and leave ’em kind though. I mean, do you really want to start hooking up with strangers?”

Allie bit her lower lip, while she considered the question. “No, I suppose not,” she agreed. “But maybe I don’t have to,” she quickly added, straightening herself in the seat and meeting Rosalind’s eye for the first time since the pair had sat down. “Maybe all those lost opportunities aren’t lost for good,” she suggested, a hint of playfulness in her voice.

Giving another tug on the hem of her skirt, Rosalind peered suspiciously at the friend who, until that afternoon, she would have sworn she knew better than anybody else. “What are you thinking?”

***

She’d been sitting for what felt like hours, watching the black cursor flash in the top left corner of the bright white, very empty box. The normal buzz of activity surrounded her. She could hear Kyle talking loudly on the phone, through the door he’d left ajar. A photocopier whirred in the corner of the bullpen, a low drone of voices assaulted her ears from all angles and there was the constant rhythmic tap of computer keyboards. She, however, could write nothing.

Allie had abandoned her assignment long before, knowing she had the better part of a week to complete it and that the simple task would, in reality, take her no longer than a few hours. It was not a sparse word document that filled her screen. Instead, she was looking at a naked email.

‘How does someone go about asking a man they haven’t seen for over five years, whether he wants to meet up for casual sex?’ Allie silently asked herself, blinking at the screen.

“Hey, Al,” an excited voice interrupted her musing. Grant’s desk was just a few feet away and rather than get up, he used his sneakered toes to propel the small wheels of his chair towards her. In his hands he held a manila file and on his face he wore an excited grin. “I think we can still get him. Look at this,” he offered, using one final thrust of his legs to reach Allie’s desk and flinging the document towards her.

She hummed disinterestedly, as she accepted the file. “What’s this?”

“It proves that a large amount of money went missing from Pelzer’s charity,” he enthused.

“How did you get hold of this?” she asked, her head snapping up.

“Perhaps best you don’t know,” he muttered, leaning conspiratorially closer and still bearing his broad grin.

“Grant,” she said, as though chastising a child. “You know we can’t use this.” She picked up the file, careful to keep it closed and handed it back to the man by her side.

“But,” he protested.

“Do you have any idea what could happen to you, me and the paper?” she interrupted.

“You wouldn’t have said that last week,” he muttered, remembering how doggedly she had been willing to pursue the case and how little regard she’d had for what was ethical or legal.

“It’s not worth the risk,” she told him flatly.

“So, you think we can get him some other way?” the young gofer asked optimistically.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged, turning back to the glare of the screen.

“I don’t get it,” Grant huffed. “What’s changed? I thought you wanted to nail this guy.”

“I did,” she tossed off-handedly. “I do,” she added, realizing she’d spoken in the past tense. “Look, I was too single-minded, there’s more to life than airing Pelzer’s dirty laundry.” She glanced at Grant over her shoulder, and was met by a look of incredulity, as though he half expected her to reveal that the statement had been an instance of her dry humor.

“Are you feeling okay?” he eventually asked, leaning back in his chair and regarding her carefully.

“I’m fine,” she replied. “I’m moving on,” she added breezily. “If Kyle is killing the story, then we’ve just got to accept that.”

Grant prodded the inside of his cheek with his tongue, still unsure whether to take her seriously or not. “So, that’s it?” he asked, folding his arms across his chest.

“Grant,” she sighed. “Life is too short to be chasing lost causes.”

“All right,” he quipped. “Who are you and what have you done with Allie McLaren?”

“Ha ha,” she sarcastically responded. Focusing on her computer screen, she lifted her hands to the keyboard. “I’ve just got other things on my mind right now,” she told him, as her fingers unconsciously began to move across the keys. “Time waits for no man,” she added, as the speed of her typing increased. “Or woman,” she added quietly.

“Okay,” Grant sighed sulkily, pushing himself up from his chair and gripping the back. “When you come back to your senses and change your mind, you’ll let me know, though?” he suggested turning his back to her as he dolefully wheeled his chair back to his desk.

“Sure,” Allie called in response, not even aware of what he’d said. She was much too absorbed in the letter that was taking shape before her eyes. Her brain wasn’t consciously dictating the words that appeared on the screen, her fingers moved fluidly, almost independently of her. In a little under a minute, she had found the right way of phrasing her invitation.

Leaning back, she scooped her hair off her shoulders and pressed it in a loose ponytail at the back of her head. She scanned through the email just once, hesitated momentarily, before muttering, “What the hell?” As the words were murmured under her breath, she lunged forwards, grasped the computer’s mouse and clicked ‘send’.

***

It was three days later when Allie found herself pacing the stretch of thick cream carpet by the foot of her bed. She wore a large bath towel around her body and a smaller one wrapped around her damp hair. Her iPhone was gripped tightly in her right hand, while her eyes flicked nervously between the floor and the black cocktail dress laid out on the bed.

“I just don’t know how to play it,” she spoke into the phone. “I mean, should I just be upfront about what I want?”

“What do you want?” Rosalind replied, as she crunched on an apple.

“We’ve already been over that one,” Allie sighed, ceasing the nervous movement of her feet.

A moment of noisy chewing was followed by a distorted, “Just want to make sure you know what you’re doing.”

“I know,” Allie replied, her voice low as she stared unflinchingly at the dress before her. “The problem is I don’t know how to get it.”

“Well,” Rosalind began. “If it were me, I’d just see how the night goes. Maybe he’ll make the first move. If not, then don’t be afraid to do it for him.”

“I’m not sure I know how to make the first move,” Allie responded, her eyes growing wide in fear at the thought of it.

“Oh, come on,” Rosalind laughed. “You mean to tell me you’ve never initiated sex before?”

“Not like this,” she protested. “Not on a first date, knowing that it’s just going to be one night.”

“You saying you don’t want to do it?”

“No,” Allie instantly countered. “I definitely want to. I’m just nervous that’s all.”

“Don’t be,” Rosalind cooed warmly. “You’re going to be fine. Just be yourself and let things play out at their own pace. I’m pretty sure you won’t have to drag him back to your lair.”

“Okay,” came Allie’s forced confidence. She grasped the corner of the makeshift turban and yanked her hair free. “I’m going to have to get ready, or I’ll be late.”

“Go get him, girl,” Rosalind encouraged smiling. “Hey,” she added suddenly. “Are you sure everything’s okay?”

“Yep,” Allie quickly lied. “Everything’s fine. We’ll…umm…talk again soon.” Feeling awkward about her dishonesty, Allie tried to wrap the call up quickly. Thankfully, she received no resistance from the other end. “Bye,” she stated, pulling the cell phone away from her ear.

“Have fun,” Rosalind managed to squeeze in, before the call ended.

Tossing the phone onto the bed, Allie sucked in a strangled breath. “You’ve done this before,” she scolded herself. “It’s just a date, it’s no big deal.”

Chapter Three

First Encounter

The hotel restaurant was quiet and atmospheric. A string quartet in the corner of the room played a selection of waltzes. The lighting was dim, but three tealight candles in the center of each table, illuminated the faces of the diners.

During the course of getting dressed, she’d managed to calm her nerves considerably. However, when she arrived at the hotel and found an incredibly handsome looking man carrying a single red rose, the butterflies in her stomach began flapping again in earnest.

Carl was even better looking than she remembered. His shoulders were broader; his chin, which had always been smooth, was covered in light stubble; and his hair, which had always been slightly too long and slightly too unmanageable, was short and neatly styled with just a touch of gel. Meanwhile, the faded T-shirts and ripped jeans, which had been his staple dress at college, had been replaced by a dapper charcoal suit and deep red dress shirt.

Throughout the dinner, Allie had slowly relaxed, thanks largely to the third glass of red wine she was sipping on by the time desert was brought to the table.

“So,” Carl mused, digging a fork into the chocolate torte in front of him. “I was really glad to hear from you, but…err…why did I hear from you?” He chuckled, causing two small dimples to dent his cheeks.

Allie felt her own face flush, as her brain supplied her with a very vivid image of what she’d contacted him for. She couldn’t bring herself to glance up into his piercing blue eyes, as she dismissed the question with a shrug. “Who knows what makes us do things,” she replied.

“Very true,” he acknowledged, leaning forwards with the fork stretched towards Allie’s mouth.

The unspoken offer was greeted with a smile, before she parted her lips and allowed him to slip the morsel of rich, luxurious chocolate into her mouth.

“You know,” he said, his eyes watching the subtle changes in her features, as she savored the mouthful. “I still think about you a lot.”

“Mmm,” Allie hummed, her eyelids flickering closed, as the gooey sweetness melted on her tongue and trickled down her throat.

Carl’s fascination grew more intense, as he continued to speak. “I sometimes think about what could have been,” he murmured, as he slowly began to withdraw the silverware from her grasp.

This time Allie’s moan was one of frustration rather than pleasure.

“Good?” he laughed.

Catching his eye, Allie saw something burning in them that she felt sure was mirrored in her own. “Very,” she nodded, somewhat breathlessly.

“I said,” he emphasized, returning the fork to the plate. “I still think about what could have been if you’d stuck around at that party, maybe had come back to my place.”

“Me too,” Allie admitted, her eyes drifting down to the sure and steady movements of his large, strong fingers as they delicately sliced another chunk of the desert.

“Yeah?” he smiled, glancing up at her.

“Yeah,” she confirmed, fixing him with an unashamed grin of her own. Moving of its own volition, she found her right foot stretching forwards slightly, until it came into contact with his calf. The table was small, making the intimate gesture easy. She regarded Carl’s face closely, assessing his reaction to the presence of her foot.

He said nothing, but his smile was briefly interrupted by a twitch of his lips, only to be replaced by a broader grin.

Satisfied, Allie quickly slipped her foot back and easily slid the four inch heel from it. “In fact,” she told him huskily, reaching forwards once more and rubbing the inside of his knee with her stockinged toes. “That’s why I got in touch.”

“Really?” he asked, humor quickly drifting from his face as Allie’s foot moved ever higher.

She was glad to find his legs widely parted and did not hesitate in following his right leg all the way up the thigh. “Yes,” she whispered, as her toes met the warmth of his crotch and she felt the unmistakable jerk of interest.

“And…err,” he croaked, before clearing his throat. “What do you think we ought to do about that?” The question was asked with a hint of desperation and Allie knew there could be no way to misinterpret the dilation of his eyes or the swelling at his groin. She had him now. The work was done and, Rosalind was right, it hadn’t been difficult at all.

“We could go upstairs,” she suggested, seductively brushing the ball of her foot over the ever-increasing bulge pushed against the fly of his pants. The effect she was so obviously having on him, caused sparks of electricity to shoot through her own body. Heat flushed every inch of her skin and restlessness teased at the juncture of her thighs.

“Upstairs?” he echoed, higher brain function quickly leaving him as blood flooded in the opposite direction.

“I booked a room,” she told him with just a hint of faux innocence. “Just in case,” she added. Not waiting for him to reply, Allie quickly removed her foot, slipped it back into the shoe and thrust her hand across the table. She grasped his right wrist and began to lift herself from the chair.

His hand being gently tugged, Carl released the fork he still clutched, causing it to clatter loudly back onto the plate. Following her lead, he rose from the seat. Wincing at the discomfort in his pants, he silently thanked whoever decided to keep the restaurant so dark.

Turning her back to him, Allie confidently strode from the room, keeping Carl’s hand firmly gripped in her own. She gracefully made her way out of the restaurant, swaying her hips just a little more than was necessary and guessing that his eyes would be focused in that general direction.

She was right. Carl’s gaze was fixed on the curve of Allie’s ass. It was pert and snuggly sheathed in the little black dress she wore. Entranced by the soft movements of those tight muscles, he barely realized that they were no longer in the dim confines of the restaurant, but the brightly lit lobby. As Allie came to a slow halt by the elevator doors, he tossed a glance around him and took a step forward.

She didn’t need to ask why he’d nestled himself against her butt. The erection that prodded at the base of her spine was no doubt noticeable. Nevertheless, he delicately wrapped his free arm around her middle and dipped his head to press his lips to her cheek.

“You smell good,” he whispered into her ear, taking another breath of the delicate hint of fruity sweetness and vanilla that lingered on her skin.

“So do you,” she repaid the compliment, noting that the smell of him hadn’t altered much over the years. Sandalwood and something vaguely citrus smelling, which she guessed was from his shower gel. Her attempt to inhale more of him was interrupted by the ping of the elevator and the soft whirr as the doors opened.

The pair waited, Carl still tightly pressed against Allie’s back, as a middle aged couple exited the car. Then, wrapping her own arm over the one he held around her abdomen, Allie shuffled forwards.

When the doors closed without admitting anyone else, Allie finally released her hold of Carl. She whipped around quickly and, placing her hands on his chest, propelled him back against one of the mirrored walls.

Carl expelled a surprised lungful of air. “You’ve changed,” he noted, smiling down at her, as she stared up at him like she was a starving woman and he was a plate of the chocolate torte they’d shared downstairs.

“Is that bad?” she asked, pressing her hips against his and reveling in the warmth of his groin against her mound.

“No, no, no,” he quickly assured her, his hands snapping up to her hips and stilling their seductive circular motion. “No,” he repeated. “It’s not a bad thing. It’s a very good thing.”

“Good,” she acknowledged with a brief nod, before suddenly closing the short space between their mouths. She’d kissed Carl before, albeit once and briefly, but she remembered the sensation of those strong, insistent lips. Even though she’d been the one to make the move, he had preempted her and returned her kiss with enthusiasm.

A deep, guttural groan of approval rumbled from deep within Carl’s chest, as Allie slipped her tongue between his lips. His own joyfully entwined with hers, playing a sexy game of tag within the tight confines of their joined mouths. Meanwhile, his fingers slid from her hips and down to her butt. Gripping both mounds of flesh, he pulled Allie towards him, increasing the already firm pressure between their bodies. As she began to trace the roof of his mouth with her chocolaty tongue, it was no longer enough. It was nowhere near enough. He needed to be closer.

Feeling the restless shudders of Carl’s hips, Allie whimpered. Things were moving fast, much faster than she’d expected, but his need was matched or perhaps even exceeded by her own.

Both so caught up in the intensity of the kiss, neither noticed the elevator come to a halt, nor the doors opening. However, they were interrupted by the overly noisy clearing of a man’s throat.

Carl instantly drew his face away from Allie’s and his eyes darted to the open door. She was a little slower to respond, but eventually they were both staring at a forty-something gentleman in a tuxedo.

With his hand casually placed on the elevators frame, keeping the doors open, the stranger grinned at Carl, before turning his focus to Allie and quirking his eyebrows suggestively. “You’re floor?” he asked, sniggering as he stood aside to clear a path for the couple.

Allie sank her embarrassed face into Carl’s shoulder, before giggling. “Come on,” she urged, placing both of her hands over the fingers that continued to grip her bottom. Peeling him away from her, she tugged Carl out of the elevator.

He stayed close to her, trying once again to conceal the pronounced evidence of his arousal. He too broke into laughter, as they snuck past the stranger, deliberately avoiding his eyes, as if he were the principal.

Allie broke into a light jog in the hallway, wobbling slightly on heels that were certainly not made for the activity. Fortunately, they only had to pass four doors before she found the one she was looking for. “Here we are,” she announced, removing the card key from its secure place in her bra.

“You know,” Carl mused, watching her swipe the card and push open the door. “A more suspicious man might think you’d planned this whole thing.”

“Is that a problem?” she asked, tossing the question over her shoulder, as she entered the room.

Following her, Carl shook his head. “Not at all,” he replied, his eyes darkening with renewed lust. Once across the threshold, he quickly wrapped his foot around the door and kicked it shut. Pausing momentarily, he appraised Allie, allowing his gaze to slowly take in every inch of her body. Lazily, he slipped his hands into his pockets, and leaned against the closed door.

Allie was surprised by the sudden lack of frenzy in his actions. However, she savored the way he enthusiastically devoured her with his eyes. Eventually, however, the heat of his stare became too much. Demurely, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and peered sheepishly down at the floor.

“Get over here,” he urged with a jerk of his head.

“Why don’t you come here?” she quietly suggested in response.

Carl tipped his head to the side, as though he were considering the counteroffer. “Is that what you want?” he asked.

It was the turn of Allie’s eyes to take a leisurely trip down his body. Slowly, her gaze wandered over the dark hair that had become slightly ruffled in the elevator, the playful glint in his eye and cute dimples in his cheeks. Moving down, she lingered on his chest, imagining what lay beneath that expanse of deep red cotton. Further still, she admired his slim hips and finally the way his manhood strained at the fabric of his pants. “Oh, yeah,” she mumbled, remembering vaguely that there had been a question asked of her.

Carl didn’t need to be told twice, lunging forward; he crossed the short distance between them. Instantly, he wrapped both arms around Allie and his mouth claimed hers hungrily.

Caught off guard by the abrupt change in his mood, Allie almost toppled backwards, but his strong hands held her upright. She was brought back to her senses as he sucked her bottom lip between his teeth and nibbled lightly on the soft skin.

Hearing her plaintive mewling sent Carl beyond the point of control. Keeping a firm grasp of Allie, he turned her around and, continuing to suck passionately on her lower lip, pushed her towards the door.

Allie’s back met the hard wood with a soft bump and she instinctively parted her feet slightly.

Carl’s body moved as though hers was calling to him, slipping his right leg between hers and pressing his thick, muscular thigh against her mound. Gasping, he tipped his head back. “You are so sexy,” he quickly panted, his hands sliding down her legs and gripping the hem of her dress. “You have no idea how many times I’ve thought about this,” he added, roughly yanking the black fabric upwards. As it got to her hips, and his fingers brushed nothing but naked flesh, he glanced down. There he found only a thin strip of hair covering her outer sex. “So sexy,” he repeated, seeming to talk to himself more than her.

Allie barely heard him, but there was no opportunity to dwell on it, as his hands continued their mission frantically bunching her dress at her waist. Her own fingers were trembling uselessly, but made an effort to grab for his leather belt. She hadn’t even managed to free the loose end from the loop of his pants, before his own hands took over.

He gently removed her fingers from his way and, as he began to quickly release the belt and unbutton his fly, Allie grasped his strong shoulders. When he moved to kiss her again, she shifted her head to the side, desperately trying to watch as he freed himself from his pants. When his fingers began to emerge from the parted fabric at his groin, she sucked in an excited breath.

Allie hadn’t had many lovers, but she knew enough to know that Carl was generously proportioned. His length was pretty impressive, but the girth was even more so. His shaft had a slight curve that caused the smooth domed head, which was already weeping clear fluid, to point towards the ceiling. The sight of him caused another surge of heat to pulse through Allie’s body and she began to feel her arousal seep onto her inner thighs. “I want you,” she breathed, shuffling her feet further apart.

Carl met her eyes, with a grin. “Just a sec,” he urged, his free hand disappearing into his back pocket and quickly returning with a small square of foil.

Allie watched him rip the wrapper open and place the circle of latex over the damp head of his penis. With practiced ease, he rolled the condom down to the base of his shaft. “Oh, God,” Allie whimpered. “I want you.”

Carl was already moving. As he guided his covered member towards her entrance, he drew the tip over her clitoris, prompting a muffled sob of delight from her. Then he slowly slipped between her outer lips. Releasing his grasp on his shaft, Carl’s hands moved to Allie’s hips. Digging his fingers possessively into the thin layer of skin, he slid his feet inside hers and nudged at her, until her stance was even wider.

“Carl,” she begged, her nails almost puncturing the thick fabric of his jacket. “Fuck me,” she whimpered, trying to edge her hips towards him, but being held tightly against the door.

He flashed a quick grin, before sliding forwards. His entry was slow, inching into her tight passage, until he had to pause only halfway inside her. “Jesus,” he hissed.

“Oh, God,” she panted, feeling her body stretch almost painfully with the unfamiliarity of being penetrated. “Ahh,” she moaned, as he edged deeper still.

Carl stilled, his breath coming hard against her cheek and neck. “You okay?” he asked through gritted teeth, struggling to maintain control over the demands of his body.

“Yeah,” she gasped. “Fine,” she assured him. “It’s just been a little while.” Her inner muscles fluttered and spasmed, slowly stretching her to accommodate him.

“Am I hurting you?”

“No,” she quickly responded, as discomfort began to give way to intense pleasure. “No, don’t stop.”

Convinced by the desire in her voice and unable to hold back any longer, Carl plunged forwards, burying himself to the hilt. Their hips came together hard and the rough fabric of Carl’s pants was pushed firmly against Allie’s clitoris.

“Yes,” she squealed, thrilling in the sensation of being completely filled, one that had been so long absent from her life.

“You’re so tight,” Carl wheezed. “Feels so damn good,” he added, almost incoherently, as he drew his hips back. There was no long, slow slide into her warmth this time. The need to return was too great and he slammed deeply within her.

Allie moaned her pleasure, her right leg lifting and curving around his hip. When he thrust once more, her back slid up the door with the force, and she screeched in delight. “God,” she panted heavily. “That’s it,” she urged him. “Faster.”

Carl silently obeyed, only drawing back about halfway, before hurriedly sheathing himself once more. He knew he wasn’t going to last long the way they were going, but from Allie’s strangled attempts to breathe and the way her fingers had gone into spasm at his shoulder, he guessed her orgasm wasn’t far away either.

The short sharp contact of his covered pubic bone against her clitoris was driving her insane. She used her leg to try and coax him closer, rubbing herself against him whenever he was held within her body.

Carl’s lower half was moving like a jackhammer, slamming her buttocks against the door with each thrust. Allie could feel the tightening in her stomach and sucked in a breath, as she waited for the wave to break.

Another grunted thrust and Carl was spilling his own climax into the rubber. “Allie,” he murmured, his hips making a series of jerky movements.

The rapid, uneven motion of his hips prompted a warmth in Allie’s abdomen and she felt the world melting away. “Yes, yes, yes,” she sobbed, the orgasm less intense than she’d expected, but seeming to roll on and on for what felt like hours.

Chapter Four

Blast From The Past

The early morning sunlight streamed through the window and landed on her exhausted eyes. Allie blinked and groaned in protest, wondering why the sun was hitting her at completely the wrong angle. The bedroom window that faced east was at the foot of her bed, not to the right. It was then that she became aware of the strange weight around her abdomen. Forcing one eye open, she glanced down at the white sheet and found a strong arm draped over her middle. In her sleep-muddled brain, it took a few moments to work out she wasn’t in her own bedroom, and a few seconds longer to remember why.

But when realization did finally strike, the events of the night before came flooding back to her: their hurried coupling against the door, followed by a shower and a rather more leisurely session under the warm jets. Then, unable to get enough of each other, they’d made love for a third time on the bed. It was one of the most intense nights of Allie’s life and she was glad that Carl’s stamina allowed him to keep up with her sex-starved body’s need to make up for all those nights she’d spent alone.

Opening both eyes, she gazed at the high ceiling and couldn’t prevent the inane grin on her face. ‘So, this is what I’ve been missing,’ she silently said to herself, tossing a sideways glance at Carl.

His hair was no longer neat. In fact, it was a mess from where she’d grasped handfuls of it the night before. He was sleeping peacefully, a low rumble that couldn’t really be called a snore coming in a steady rhythm with each inhale.

Allie smiled again, as she looked at his handsome face. She was glad that he’d been the one to break the drought. Not only was he a very considerate lover, but he seemed to know exactly what she needed and when. Allie guessed that he’d either been with a lot of women, or was simply a very quick study of her. Because by the third time they’d had sex, she’d cried out in orgasm four times before he finally allowed himself to come.

Carefully, she took hold of his thick wrist and lifted his arm from her body. Noticing the deadweight, she guessed he was sleeping very deeply indeed, and realized the chances of waking him were minimal. So, with a little less care, she slipped her naked body out from under the sheets and wandered to the bathroom. Stifling a yelp, as her bare feet touched the cool tiles, she closed the door softly behind her.

Once under the jets of the shower, she couldn’t help but relive the hour or more she’d spent in there with Carl. Closing her eyes, her hand slipped over her soapy stomach and crept between her legs. She winced, realizing how sensitive the activities of the night before had left her. Nevertheless, she continued to lazily stroke two fingers between her swollen lips. Gently, she stimulated her tender flesh, focusing on the tiny engorged bud. It didn’t take long for a slow, relaxed orgasm to relieve her. But she knew it would only do so temporarily.

With still damp hair, and wearing the black dress she arrived at the hotel in, Allie emerged from the bathroom. She wasn’t surprised to find that Carl was still sound asleep, although he had moved, rolling facedown into the middle of the bed. Moving to the tiny cabinet on the left hand side, she picked up the hotel’s notepad and pencil. After scribbling a few words onto a piece of paper, she ripped it from the pad and placed it lightly on the pillow next to Carl’s head.

With only a passing backwards glance, Allie made her way from the bedroom and across the suite’s living area. With a spring in her step and contentment she hadn’t felt in a long time, she left the hotel room and shut the door with a quiet click.

When Carl finally woke up, he would find no trace of her, except a handwritten note, which read. ‘I had a great time. Thanks!’

***

It was a little after midday when Allie arrived in her apartment building. She got a disapproving look from her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Jessop, in the hall, and guessed her dress and slightly bedraggled hair fairly screamed, ‘slut’.

Strangely, though, she didn’t avoid the older woman’s eyes. Instead, she offered her a warm, “Good afternoon,” as the smile she’d worn ever since she woke up continued to brighten her features.

It wasn’t until she was in the safety of her own apartment and slumped on the couch, with her legs propped up on the seat, that she realized she truly didn’t care what Mrs. Jessop thought. She didn’t care what anybody thought. Maybe she had acted like a slut, but she was not ashamed of it. She’d always gone after what she wanted, she’d just been under the impression that what she wanted was only a career. How wrong she was. There were so many more things to want, crave and desire in this world. Then, the reminder of what had caused her drastic change in attitude bombarded Allie and the smile she’d been unable to remove from her face, disappeared of its own accord. Fortunately, however, fatigue came to her rescue, preventing her from dwelling on her fate, as she drifted off into a pleasant sleep.

Allie slept the entire afternoon away. By the time she woke, it was almost five o’clock and she was ravenous. Pulling herself up from the couch, she dragged her lethargic limbs to the kitchen and threw open the refrigerator. She stood for several moments, sleep still fogging her brain, before she reached forwards to a pasta meal. It took her less than thirty seconds to rip the cardboard open and toss the tray into the microwave.

Leaving Percy Spencer’s wonderful invention to work its magic, she wandered into the bathroom, tossed some cold water on her face and then peeled herself from her dress.

When the microwave’s incessant beep announced that dinner was served, Allie walked back onto the kitchen dressed in a pair of plaid pajama bottoms and a crisp white T-shirt. Her hair was scooped back from her face and clipped loosely at the nape of her neck.

Grabbing a fork from a drawer and a plate from the rack, she quickly removed her meal from its packaging and returned to the living room with it. Stifling a yawn, she slid her plate onto the coffee table and allowed the steaming pasta to cool. Her eyes moved over the table, looking for some distraction for a couple of minutes. A copy of Rosalind’s magazine, which she’d left a couple of weeks previously, had remained unread. She still had no intention of picking it up. Instead, her eyes continued to move and eventually landing on her laptop, she quickly swept the computer up with her right hand.

She wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when she opened her emails, but she’d secretly hoped that she would find a message from Carl. Sure enough, her inbox had just one unread email, and it was from him. Like her note to him, it was brief. ‘I had a great time, too. If you ever want to meet up again, you know how to find me.’ Allie smiled, wondering if she should take him up on the offer. Sex with him was certainly good. However, it would get too complicated if she spent more than a night with him. He might start to think that she wanted a relationship and, even if he didn’t, if he saw her on even a semi-regular basis, there were things he might notice. Bruises, loss of weight, things she wouldn’t be able to hide from someone who saw her naked. No, there was no question. As wonderful as Carl was, it could only be a one night deal.

Besides, she reminded herself, the whole idea was to make up for all of the lost opportunities she’d had. And, she had to admit, part of the reason sex with Carl had been so good was because it was entirely free, uncommitted, maybe even meaningless. Allie knew, without question, that was what she hungered for.

Closing the email inbox, she opened a new browser and typed words she never thought she would write, ‘www.facebook.com’. Allie had always been a firm believer that Facebook was a complete waste of time. Now, however, she began to see a way of using it to her advantage. She wanted to contact men from her past, men who previously she simply hadn’t had time for. Consequently, with the exception of Carl, who she’d bumped into quite by accident and exchanged email address with, she hadn’t remained in touch with any of the guys who were now on her list of potential lovers. What better way to find them, than through Facebook? “Who would have thought,” she muttered, typing her details to open a profile on the site. “I’m actually grateful to Mark Zuckerberg for creating this crap.”

It didn’t take long to find a number of friends she’d attended college with and through many of them, she was able to find others, who for one reason or another weren’t listed on the college network. Soon, she’d already got over 150 ‘friends’. There were four men that she remembered particularly vividly and, writing quick private message to all of them, she hoped that they would remember her, too.

By the time she set the laptop back on the table, her dinner was cold, but she found she wasn’t hungry anyway. She left the goopy, unappetizing mess and kept her eyes on the computer screen. Leaning forward, she lent her elbows on her knees and placed her chin on her hands. As the seconds ticked by, she tapped her index finger against her cheek. She knew that it was stupid to sit there waiting, she was well aware of the fact that people had lives and weren’t logged onto Facebook twenty four hours a day. Nevertheless, the anticipation would not allow her to think of anything else.

So she continued to sit, as the minute’s ticked by, willing just one of the men to write to her, even if it was just to say, ‘No, I’m sorry, but I haven’t got a clue who you are.’ After fifteen excruciatingly long minutes, the small red ‘1’ appeared at the top of the message icon. Allie slipped from the couch and settled on the floor, pulling the laptop close to the edge of the coffee table, so she could reach the keyboard with ease.

The first man to reply was Stephen Lanzmann. He worked on the college paper and that meant Allie had had more time for him than most men. They even went on a couple of dinner dates. However, when he tried to move things further, Allie convinced herself that it would be a bad idea to sleep with someone she worked with, even if it was just on the college paper. She believed, somewhat illogically, that it would lead people, especially future employers, to assume that that’s how she got ahead in the workplace. So, their blossoming relationship was ended before it ever went anywhere.

She opened his message with no small amount of trepidation, wondering if perhaps, even though he’d been outwardly very understanding of her decision all those years ago, he was secretly pissed off. The opening line appeared to suggest that her concern was in vain. ‘Oh my, God! Allie McLaren, how long has it been?’ He went on to discuss old times, asking whether she remembered some of the stories they’d worked on together. Then, he asked the question she’d wanted to ask him. ‘Would you like to meet up some time?’

Not bothering to appear to play it cool, Allie chose not to wait before replying. Soon, a date for the following week was arranged. And, just as she was about to close the laptop, she found another new message. Within ten minutes, she had a second date, just three days after her planned meeting with Stephen. She wavered momentarily over whether to see the two men so close to one another, but shrugged off any concern the old Allie would have had, insisting that she didn’t have the luxury of time. Besides, she reminded herself, she wasn’t the old Allie any more. If there had been any residual doubt over that, Carl had washed it away.

Chapter Five

No Regrets

The first three days of the working week dragged slowly for Allie. She rushed a few pointless assignments, but her heart wasn’t in her work at all. She spent most of her time scrolling through the Facebook profile of Stephen, trying to piece together his life since college.

By the time she headed home early on Wednesday afternoon, she’d learned that he’d recently split with a girl he’d been engaged to. There was no overt reference to the cause of the breakup, but, from the messages of sympathy Stephen had received from friends, which included unflattering remarks regarding the lady in question, Allie guessed there had been infidelity on her part.

All of this meant there was a good chance Stephen would be open to her suggestion of a guilt-free, no-strings evening of fun. He needed a sexual sorbet. Nothing too serious, just a night of purely physical pleasure to help get over the woman who’d broken his heart.

After a long, unhurried bath, during which time she shaved, exfoliated and tweezed her body to perfection, Allie dressed in a long red dress with plunging neckline. She’d got no plans to leave the apartment, but Stephen didn’t need to know that. Besides which, she wanted to wow him.

It was exactly seven o’clock when a firm knock sounded at the door. She rolled her eyes good-naturedly, remembering his almost obsessional punctuality. Smiling, she wandered to the door and pulled it open. “Right on time,” she announced.

Stephen Lanzmann was no jock, like Carl, but he was no less attractive. He had wavy, sandy blonde hair, which Allie noted was just long enough to rake her hands through. In a dramatic move from college, Allie found him embracing his inner geek. He’d ditched the contacts and returned to wearing thick-rimmed glasses. He wore fitted, dark blue jeans with a black dress shirt and a grey suit jacket. His light brown eyes took her in slowly, before a smile that was all bright white teeth emerged on his face.

Allie remembered that smile well. It was a dazzling grin, a genuine look of pleasure or joy, which reached his eyes and possessed such magnetism that it was impossible for anyone to dislike him.

“Hi,” he greeted, lifting his hand in a slightly nervous wave.

Allie had known this would be different from her experience with Carl. Stephen was an inherently shy guy. He wasn’t going to make any moves on her, especially if he felt self-conscious or tense. So, she had to remind him what it had been like between them when they were friends. Stepping forward, she opened her arms and pulled him into a hug. “It’s really good to see you,” she enthused, genuinely. “Why don’t you come in?”

It took a while for Stephen to force his limbs to react to the embrace and by the time he was wrapping his own arms around Allie’s tiny frame, she was already drawing back. “Err, thanks,” he grinned. “You look great,” he added.

“You too,” she smiled standing aside and offering him entry into the apartment.

Stephen gratefully accepted, stepping across the threshold and slowly taking in the living room in front of him. He wasn’t surprised by what he saw. No artwork on the walls, no pictures, clean wooden floors, no clutter, no ornaments collecting dust. It was simple, uncomplicated. It was very Allie.

“Do you want to sit down?” Allie urged, draping an arm around Stephen’s waist and turning him in the direction of the couch.

“Umm, sure,” he nodded, following her lead and lowering himself onto the leather, L-shaped furniture. “Aren’t we heading out?” he added.

“We can if you want to,” Allie replied, settling next to him and making sure her thigh was pressed tightly against his. “But I was thinking we could stay here.”

“Oh,” he responded in surprise. “Well, sure,” he quickly added. “I mean, it’s quieter here. We can talk properly.”

Allie smiled to herself, placing a hand on his leg, as she leaned closer to his ear. “I wasn’t thinking about talking, either,” she whispered.

“You weren’t?” he questioned, his eyes moving down to her fingers and the suggestive way they crept around to his inner thigh.

“No,” she huskily announced. “I was thinking about that night we went to the cocktail bar and what happened when we got back to my place.”

Stephen swallowed hard. “Nothing happened when we got back to your place,” he said. There was no hint of accusation; it was just a simple statement of fact.

“That was a mistake,” she whispered, her lips brushing against his smooth, soft cheek as they moved. “My mistake,” she added.

“Allie,” he sighed, twisting in his seat, so that her body was not quite as close to his. “I don’t think this is a good idea,” he noted. “I’ve just got out of a-”

“It’s all right,” she quickly interjected forestalling him. “I know you’re not looking for anything serious. Neither am I,” she smiled, tipping forwards and offering him a view of her naked cleavage. “I just want a chance to relive a chance I should have taken.”

It was struggle for Stephen to take his gaze from her generous curves. However, he eventually managed to meet her eyes with a questioning furrow on his brow. “Why?”

“I don’t want to live with regrets,” she replied simply, kicking her shoes off and pushing herself up onto her knees. “I don’t want to be left wondering what could have been.” She smiled as she took hold of the long skirt of her gown and swung one leg over Stephen’s thighs. “I’ll make sure you don’t regret it,” she informed him, settling into his lap.

Unsure what to do, Stephen lifted his hands only to leave them hovering at Allie’s back for a few moments. Then he placed them flat on the couch again. “I don’t want you to think that we can just pick things up where we left them,” he insisted, shaking his head. “Things have changed. Our lives have changed and we can’t…I mean….”

“Just one night, Stephen. That’s all I want. One night to feel what I should have experienced nine years ago.”

“I don’t…” he stammered, the war between the demands of his body and the warnings of his brain becoming harder to fight.

Allie knew that talking wasn’t going to get her any further. Instead, she reached behind her and began to pull the tiny zipper of her gown. The top of her dress instantly went slack and, as she slipped her arms out of the thin spaghetti straps, the red fabric pooled at her waist.

Her exposed breasts where directly in Stephen’s eye line. If he leaned forward just fractionally, he could taste the pink buds in their centers.

Over recent weeks, weight loss had meant she’d gone down a cup size, but Stephen’s admiring eyes, as wide as saucers, reassured her that they were still attractive. “You can do whatever you want with me,” she encouraged him, placing her right hand at the side of his head and stroking the backs of her fingers through the hair at his temple..

Although his face betrayed nothing of what her words had done to him, Allie felt the denim of his pants press rigidly against the crotch of her panties. His hands moved slowly to her legs, finding their way beneath the fabric, until he was touching her bare flesh. Then, Allie saw the change in his eyes, the shift from nervous nerdy guy to a man who knew exactly what he wanted and was going to get it.

Lunging forwards, Stephen placed his face between her breasts and delicately licked the inner curve to his left. The gentle teasing prompted Allie to jerk, rocking her hips against his. Both of her hands worked their way into the thick hair at the back of his head, twisting handfuls in encouragement. Stephen licked her other breast as he had the first, before placing his warm mouth on her areola and teasing the already erect nipple into an even harder peak.

Allie closed her eyes and tipped her head back, pushing her highly sensitive flesh further into his mouth. Stephen responded by grazing his teeth over the puckered skin and was rewarded with a strangled, “yes.”

Slowly releasing the warm pebble from his lips, Stephen leaned back once more. Looking at her flushed cheeks and ragged breath, he smiled. Continuing to massage the muscles of her thighs, he ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “Get up,” he ordered, in a manner vastly different from the nervy demeanor he displayed when he arrived.

Allie cocked her head to the side, assessing the change in him and intrigued by a facet of his personality she’d never seen before.

“Get up,” he repeated, sliding his hands out from beneath her dress. Lifting the fingers of his right hand to his face, he slid the heavy-framed spectacles from his nose, before uncaringly tossing them on the couch to his right.

Somewhat amused, Allie did as she was told, shuffling back down his legs. The toes of her right foot found the hard floor and she eased herself upright. Feeling suddenly uncomfortably exposed, she made a move to pull the bodice of her dress over her torso, but Stephen stopped her with a sharp, “No.”

Pushing himself from the couch, he stood before her. Near enough to touch her, but keeping his hands to himself. “Take it off,” he encouraged.

Lapping at her dry lips, Allie followed his direction. Gripping the dress, where it clung to her hips, she nudged it down, until gravity took over. She was left in nothing but a black, lace thong. Preempting his next instruction, she hooked her thumb in the underwear, but again, she was stopped by a forceful, “No.”

Stephen shook his head, and held out his open left hand towards her. “Leave the panties,” he said.

Allie had once briefly dated a man who enjoyed controlling their lovemaking. So the experience was not entirely new to her. However, she had never in her wildest dreams imagined Stephen as sexually dominant. He was always so mild-mannered and easygoing, sometimes even shy, as he had been when she first opened the door. To see him reveling in a very different side of his personality was both arousing and slightly scary. However, she took the hand offered to her.

Stephen grasped her fingers and tugged them towards him, placing them over the bulge in his jeans. Guiding her hand, he encouraged her to rub him through the thick fabric, until she no longer needed the tutorial. Removing his own hand, he began to shrug his jacket from his shoulder, tossing it to the floor. “Don’t stop,” he commanded, his fingers quickly moving to the small buttons of his shirt.

Stephen was much slimmer than Carl, his chest was not as muscular or as prominent, but it was sleek and toned. Each inch of skin he uncovered was completely smooth, until he reached his navel, where a thin trail of fluffy dark hair disappeared beneath the waistband of his pants.

The shirt was shucked in the same way the jacket had been. Stephen didn’t even bother to glance at where it landed, his eyes fixed instead on Allie’s eyes. He gave her an intense look of gravity that almost dared her to stop stimulating him with her hand.

She sensed the challenge and redoubled her efforts, cupping him firmly, before continuing a steady massage with the heel of her hand.

“Fuck,” Stephen muttered softly, overwhelmed by the way she gently squeezed his testicles. Sensing the shift in the balance of power, he purposefully pulled her hand away from him. “Come with me,” he said, keeping a grasp of her wrist and tugging her after him.

Allie thought that he was heading towards the bedroom, not stopping to question how he would know where it was. However, Stephen’s destination was much closer, as he took a left around the couch and came to a stop. Turning her, he nudged her forwards, until the high back of the couch was pressed against her stomach.

“Do you really want this?” he asked, his hands finding the dip of her waist.

Her answer was instinctive. “Yes,” she responded, her voice unwavering in its certainty.

Stephen’s hands left her body and she heard the rustle of clothes, and then felt the rush of air that indicated he’d bent and then righted himself hurriedly. As his hands came back to her, so did the rest of his body. The thick coarse hair at his groin brushed against the top her right buttock. His rock hard manhood was squeezed between his belly and her lower back.

Allie sucked her lower lip between her teeth and bit down hard, as the anticipation of feeling his length move inside her became almost a physical pain.

Stephen seemed to sense her impatience and a low rumble of laughter rolled through him. His right hand meanwhile moved over her buttock and sought out the small piece of fabric between her legs. “Were these expensive?” he asked, his voice now thick with arousal.

The apparent non-sequitur caught Allie off guard. “Umm,” she mumbled. “I…err-” Any further attempts to answer the question ceased as a short rip was joined by a flood of cool air to her sex.

“I’ll buy you another pair,” Stephen mumbled, placing his chin on her shoulder and taking her earlobe roughly between his teeth. As he gripped it tightly and ran the tip of his tongue over its curve, he leaned forward. Pushing his upper body against Allie’s back, he bent her over the back of the couch.

Allie grasped the leather edge with both hands, as she felt Stephen’s member slip down the cheek of her bottom and eventually come to rest between her legs.

Lifting his upper body, he placed the flat of his right hand on her back, telling her that he wanted her to remain still. Meanwhile, he shifted his hips, poking the heavy head of his shaft clumsily between her slick folds. It didn’t take long for it to find its goal, though.

He penetrated her in one, slow but fluid motion, uttering muttered curses and drawing in shuddered breaths through an open mouth. Allie could tell that he wasn’t as generously sized as Carl, but the angle of his entry caused him to brush against the front wall of her passage, finding her G-spot.

“Stephen,” she gasped, pushing herself further into the couch and rubbing her clitoris against the hard edge.

“Ugh,” he grunted, his hips meeting her bottom.

Strands of Allie’s hair was sticking to her sweaty forehead, as she bucked beneath him, urging him to move and stimulate that sweet spot once more.

Stephen, however, was not going to be rushed. He gently slipped from her, before repeating the slow, smooth thrust. Again and again, he repeated that motion, breathing deeply, almost as though he were meditating.

Allie was far from relaxed. Her hips jerked with as much movement as they were capable of and she pleaded in soft whispers and strangled moans. It was exquisite torture. He brought her so close to orgasm, but never took her all the way.

“Just breath,” Stephen urged.

“I…am…breathing,” she replied brokenly, as he brushed over the sensitive skin of her sex once more. Her legs kicked out involuntarily and she wrapped her right foot around his calf.

“Trust me,” he continued in a lower tone, draping himself over her back and leaning towards her ear. “It’ll come,” he assured her. “Deep breaths.”

Unable to do anything else, Allie followed his instructions, inhaling deeply, before releasing the breath through an open mouth. Having always held her breath when she felt a climax building, she was certain breathing would do nothing to help her, but she continued to do as directed.

“That’s good,” Stephen cooed, as his hips met her ass in the same gentle rhythm. He knew she was teetering on the edge and he also knew exactly what would push her over it. Withdrawing almost completely from her, he simply held himself still, the mushroomed head of his manhood stretching her entrance. Then, without warning, he slammed himself forwards, his balls slapping against her inner thighs.

The sudden, forceful thrust caused Allie to open her mouth and release a grunted breath of surprise. However, that exhalation quickly turned into a squeal of pleasure, as molten lava shot up from her sex and warmed her entire body. The small muscles of her sex spasmed quickly, squeezing Stephen in short, sharp bursts.

The intensity of the sensation caught Stephen off guard, and he suddenly found his eyes rolling back in his head, as his shaft lengthened and released its sticky climax in strong bursts. Breathing hard, he slumped over her, his muscles no longer capable of keeping him upright. “I don’t think…” he panted. “It would have been like that nine years ago.”

Having still not quite found her way back to Earth, Allie giggled girlishly, while her sex continued to lazily milk Stephen’s spent shaft.

Chapter Six

Best Friends

Carrying a clear plastic container of caramel Frappuccino, Rosalind gently grasped her sunglasses and perched them on the top of her head. As she rounded the corner, she saw that Allie’s front door was ajar and her brow creased. Approaching, her steps slowed and she drew back the cup of icy liquid, as though prepared to use it as a weapon if necessary. With her free hand warily outstretched, she pushed at the partly open door. “Allie?” she asked, while the hinges creaked and the door slowly swung wide.

She was met by a broad male back, dressed in a black leather jacket. He was running a hand over the nape of his neck and twisted at the sound of Rosalind’s voice. “Oh, hey,” he said in a husky southern accent.

“Umm,” she mumbled in response. “Hey,” she echoed bewilderedly.

“I’m just leaving,” he explained. “Allie’s…err…” he paused, glancing to his left. “Just coming,” he added, when he noticed movement coming from the bedroom.

Rosalind took a step forward. Pushing the door wider, she leaned her upper body into the apartment and tried to follow the focus of the man in front of her. There, she found Allie dressed in only a bathrobe. Her loose hair was mussed from sleep, except Rosalind guessed there hadn’t been much in the way of sleep. Allie’s face was set in a silly contended smile, but there were bags under her eyes.

“Allie, sweetheart,” the man crooned. “You’ve got a visitor,” he informed her, gesturing with an open palm towards Rosalind’s top half.

Allie glanced from the face of the man to Rosalind’s confused features. “Hi,” she greeted, her tone lifting in question.

Righting herself, Rosalind stepped into the room, pushing past the leather-jacketed stranger. “You forgot?” she demanded.

“Forgot what?” Allie responded.

Opening her mouth to speak, Rosalind sucked in a breath, before remembering that they weren’t alone in the room. Quickly pressing her lips together, she twisted to face the man. “Do you mind?” she asked rudely.

“Oh,” he replied, uncomfortably. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right,” Allie chipped in, wandering towards her date from the night before and placing a placating hand on his chest. “Look, umm…” she murmured.

“It’s okay,” he quickly stated, sensing her disquiet at the tension unmistakably mounting between the two women. “I’ll get out of your hair,” he added, motioning towards the door. “You know,” he chuckled. “I had a great time last night.”

“Me too,” Allie smiled, following him closely as he reached the threshold.

Before leaving, he leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on Allie’s lips. “It’d be nice to do this again sometime,” he suggested quietly.

“Maybe,” Allie stated, waving him off.

Rosalind didn’t take her eyes from the pair. As she watched the exchange, her mouth dropped in disbelief.

With a frustrated sigh, Allie closed the door and rapidly turned on her friend. “Did you learn those manners in finishing school?” she demanded. “You know, this is my home, Ros.”

“And you know, we had a date for lunch,” Rosalind snapped back. “I was waiting in the restaurant for over an hour,” she added. “Have you any idea how worried I was.”

“So worried you stopped at Starbucks on the way,” Allie pointed out, striding across the room and tossing the words over her shoulder as she breezed into the kitchen.

Glancing down at the cup in her hands, Rosalind huffed in response to the accusation. “What the hell is going on with you?” she insisted. “You don’t turn up to lunch; you don’t even remember we’re supposed to be having lunch. You’ve got strange men in your apartment, and when I called you at work yesterday, they told me you were off sick.”

Allie didn’t bother to lift her head at the long list of complaints Rosalind seemed set on airing. She was intently focused, instead, on fixing herself a cup of coffee. Huffing, she slammed cabinet doors, as she tried to find a fresh jar of the instant stuff. “I’ve been feeling a little off color,” she stated, choosing to only acknowledge the last of Rosalind’s points.

“Well, you clearly felt a lot better when you picked up Mr. Texas.”

“Kansas,” Allie matter-of-factly snapped.

“What?”

“Stephan is from Kansas,” she explained, closing another cabinet with a sharp bang.

“I don’t care where he’s from,” Rosalind erupted, marching into the kitchen. “Look,” she sighed, trying to keep a tenuous hold on her desire to grab her friend and shake some sense into her. “I just want to know that you’re all right. You’ve been acting so strangely these last few weeks.”

Giving up on her search for coffee and trying to remember the last time she actually went grocery shopping, Allie perched herself on a stool by her breakfast bar. Lifting her face to Rosalind, she shook her head. “I’ve been having fun these last few weeks, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“All right,” Rosalind conceded. “There is nothing wrong with having fun. But there’s more to it than that.” The tension seeming to suddenly pop, she slowly wandered to where Allie sat and took the stool next to her. Fortunately, on that day, she was wearing pants and had no problem settling herself on the seat. “We’re supposed to be friends, aren’t we?”

“Of course we’re friends,” Allie automatically responded.

“So why can’t you talk to me about whatever it is that’s bothering you?”

“Nothing is bothering me,” she countered, placing her hands on the counter in front of her and steepling her fingers. “I’ve been having the time of my life, Ros,” she added, smiling to herself.

Rosalind could tell that her best friend’s thoughts had taken her elsewhere and didn’t bother to attempt to bring her back for some moments. She took the opportunity to really look at Allie, to note the genuine look of happiness that radiated from her. However, she knew on a deeper level all was far from well with the woman beside her. It was a feeling in her gut, something she could never put into words, but a sensation that she simply couldn’t ignore.

“I’ve been looking at the world differently.” It was Allie who broke the silence, as she continued to thoughtfully gaze at her entwined hands.

“But why?” Rosalind asked, beginning to feel as though she were beating against a brick wall. “What’s happened?”

Allie considered how she would answer for several seconds, before lifting her gaze to Rosalind and fixing her with open, honest eyes. “I’ve been given a wake-up call,” she said softly.

“What the heck does that mean?” Rosalind scoffed back. “You going to die?”

Allie knew that the suggestion had been made in jest; a thought so outrageous that it didn’t occur to Rosalind that it could be true. She wanted to deny it, to laugh and reassure her friend. However, she couldn’t. Instead, an uncomfortable silence descended on the pair.

The smile quickly vanished from Rosalind’s face to be replaced by one of mortification. “Allie,” she whispered, that one word asking a thousand questions and expressing a hundred emotions.

***

The women talked well into the evening and, in the end, Rosalind spent the night on Allie’s couch. They only briefly discussed the disease, Allie admitting that she’d not bothered to read anything about it, and that, if she were honest, she didn’t care. She knew enough to know that her days were now numbered, all she wanted to do was enjoy them while they lasted.

Naturally, Rosalind expressed concern and urged Allie to go back to the doctor, or to at least consider the possibility of chemotherapy. But she realized, even as she was speaking, that Allie’s mind was firm.

By the Sunday morning, Allie wasn’t sure whether she felt better or worse for having unburdened herself. In some ways, it was a relief to no longer carry the secret of her illness alone. On the other hand, spending the night talking about cancer and death had put those things back at the forefront of her mind and depressed her deeply. What she need, desperately, was a new distraction. Another man, another old flame, another good fuck.

Hustling Rosalind into the shower and inviting her to raid her wardrobe, Allie settled on the floor by her coffee table and opened her laptop. As she waited for the computer to come to life, she allowed herself to drift back over the years; searching for faces that she’d like to see again. Her brain slowed in its hunt, lingering over a man she’d met at a journalists’ conference the summer before. He’d given her his card and asked her to call, but she’d never bothered. In fact, she’d stupidly tossed the card in the trash when she’d got home. However, she did remember that he worked for the LA Times and his name was Mitch, so he should be traceable.

Going straight to the Los Angeles Times’ site, she began scrolling through articles, only glancing at the by-line of each. Eventually, she found one written by Mitch Hatley. “Hatley,” she mumbled. “That’s it.” As she spoke, she clicked on his contact address and wrote a quick note, simply mentioning where they’d met and asking him to contact her.

With that done, she logged onto her email account and was struck by the number of alerts she’d been sent from Facebook. Several people, some she was certain she’d never met, had added her as a friend. However, one name stood out among the rest. Quickly, she opened a new browser and signed into the site, eager to read the private message he’d left her. It was brief, but it sent a delightful shiver down her spine.

‘Allie, so good to see you on here! I know it’s been a long time since high school, but hope you remember me. Funny enough, I’ve been living in San Francisco for a year. I had no idea you were working for the Chronicle – that’s nothing against the paper, I just don’t read the news. Anyway, the point is, I would have got in touch sooner if I’d known you were so close. Would be amazing to see you.’

“Who’s Reece?” the question was asked just before a crunch of toast echoed around the room.

Startled, Allie wrenched her neck around to find Rosalind leaning on the back of the couch peering at the laptop screen. “For God’s sake,” she muttered, trying to catch her breath from the fright. “He’s…umm,” she added, trying to regain some composure. “He’s…”

“He’s hot,” Rosalind offered, glad to have something lighthearted to concentrate on after the soul-draining conversation of the night before. Her head tilting to the side, as she tried to get a better look of the small profile picture in the corner of the message.

Allie cast her gaze back to the screen and noted that Rosalind was right. Reece had always been attractive, but he had grown even more so with age. His dark, almost black hair was cut in an Ivy league style with just a few strands of his short bangs clinging damply to his forehead. Although she could only see his head and shoulders, it certainly seemed as though he was topless and the bright azure sky suggested that he was on a beach somewhere. His grin was as bright and wide was always, causing his deep brown eyes to sparkle.

“So, you know him?” Rosalind asked, nudging her friend from her assessment of the image.

“Err, yeah,” she responded, peering reluctantly over her shoulder. “We were at high school together.”

“Oh,” Rosalind replied, taking another loud bite of toast. “You were close?” she probed.

“Well,” she hedged. “Yeah,” she acknowledged, unable to keep her focus on the woman behind her and allowing her eyes to move back to Reece’s. “We dated for a while. He was my first love,” she added quietly.

“Really?” Rosalind said grinning. “Well, why the hell did you let him go?”

Allie chuckled, dipping her head. “We went to different colleges and just drifted apart,” she admitted, wondering why she’d let that happen.

“And?” Rosalind urged.

“And what?”

“Are you going to see him?”

“Oh,” Allie blurted. “I’m not sure,” she shrugged.

“What?” Rosalind almost shouted, rounding the couch and throwing herself on to it. Quickly leaning forwards, she rested her chin on Allie’s shoulder as she tried to get a better glimpse of him. “Why the hell wouldn’t you want to see him again?” she demanded. “Was he an ass?” she quickly added, not waiting for a response. “Did he cheat, lie?”

“No, no,” Allie shook her head. “Nothing like that.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

Allie silently gazed at the picture of a happy, handsome, hunky Reece. “He’s not like the others,” she eventually explained.

“Because he really meant something to you,” Rosalind offered. It was phrased as though it could have been a question, but they both knew it wasn’t.

“I wouldn’t want to ruin what we had before,” Allie nodded.

“Well,” Rosalind said thoughtfully, leaning back on the couch and popping the last piece of toast into her mouth. “I don’t see how you can ruin what you had. That’ll never change,” she said sagely, the words muffled by crunching. “But you have got a chance to add to those memories.”

Allie cocked her head to the side, still staring at the computer screen. “I suppose,” she reluctantly agreed. As far as she was concerned, although Rosalind’s logic was sound, it didn’t mean things would work out that way.

“Look,” Rosalind announced, leaning forward once more and placing both hands on Allie’s shoulders. “I don’t necessarily agree with the way you’re dealing with things,” she said. “But,” she quickly added, knowing that Allie would simply repeat the same arguments she’d put forward the night before. “In the spirit of having no regrets, I think you’d be really stupid not to make the most of this.”

Chapter Seven

First Love

To Allie’s delight, Reece was still the force of energy, fun and life he always had been. Although they’d originally planned to just have a casual dinner, they had ended up going on to a club, drinking several cocktails and dancing into the wee hours. It was almost two o’clock in the morning when they arrived, hand-in-hand at her apartment door.

“Well,” he sighed, releasing his hold on her and placing his palm on the wall. “I haven’t had a night like that in a while.”

“I don’t believe you,” Allie muttered good-humoredly, fumbling with her key in the lock.

“I’m serious,” he insisted, smiling in a way that prompted tiny wrinkles to appear at the corners of his eyes. “You’re a bad influence.”

“Ha,” Allie exhaled. “You remember that time we had a date for the movies and you didn’t get me home until after midnight?” she asked. “I was grounded for a month.”

“Well, there you are,” he quickly responded, lifting the index finger of his right hand to emphasize his point. “I was with you that night, too. Bad influence!”

Allie turned to face him fully, leaning her right shoulder against the door. She hummed a sarcastic ‘yes’, as her eyes moved up his six foot frame.

“Of course,” he said, turning suddenly more serious. “As I recall,” he added thoughtfully, his index finger moving to trace the curve of Allie’s waist. “We never actually went to the movies that night.”

“No,” Allie agreed, her tongue quickly stroking over her lips, as she anticipated his next move.

“Do you ever think about it?” he asked, his finger slowly stroking up and down her side from her hip until it reached just beneath her breast.

“How could I forget?” she countered, feeling her cheeks flush with heat. She wasn’t sure whether the blush was caused by the subtle, unbelievably sensual movement of his finger or the memory of losing her virginity to him.

Pausing as the tip of his finger reached the waistband of her jeans, Reece swept his digit almost absent-mindedly towards her naval. “Did I ever thank you?” he asked, watching the movement of his own hand with great interest.

“For what?” Allie asked, trying to keep her voice even, while Reece’s gently explorative touch caused every muscle in her body to tremble.

Leaning forwards and dipping his tall frame, Reece placed his mouth a mere breath from hers. “For letting me be the one,” he explained. “For giving that gift to me.”

His breath was intoxicating and it had little to do with the scent of the mojitos he’d drunk. Allie heard his words, as though they had been spoken some distance away. At that moment, the central focus of all her senses was just how near he was. On some subconscious level, she must have registered his words though, because the gratitude seemed incongruous, almost laughable to her.

Allie remembered well, the year she’d dated Reece; the patience he’d shown, the way he’d never pushed things further than she was willing to go. And she vividly remembered the night she’d been ready; the care he’d taken, his gentle reassurances, the unhurried way he’d prepared her for him and the almost reverent way he’d treated her body.

As the months and years passed, and she’d discussed ‘first times’ with girlfriends, she realized how lucky she’d been to have a night so memorable for the right reasons.

“Thank you,” Reece whispered, nudging her from her thoughts.

“Thank you,” she echoed.

Slowly, Reece leaned closer and Allie held her breath in anticipation. But, just before their lips came together, he changed course. Grazing his rugged cheek across hers, he pressed a kiss against her cheekbone. During the three weeks of Allie’s sexual liberation, that one innocent kiss was arguably the most erotic moment yet. It didn’t seem to suggest or promise anything. To a casual observer, it might even have looked platonic. However, Allie drew in a shaky breath, as her upper body was silently drawn to his. She nestled against his warm chest, which was covered in a light blue, cotton shirt.

“Well,” he sighed, suddenly righting himself. “I guess, I better get going.”

Allie fixed her eyes on his much darker ones. “You don’t have to,” she said huskily, finding her throat dry. Placing her palm on his sternum, she ran her hand down the center of his shirt, before pausing over his abdomen. There, her fingers could feel the firm, taut muscles beneath. As she gently stroked that hard washboard stomach, she felt him involuntarily twitch.

“Don’t…umm,” he paused, clearing his throat as he tried to assert control over his unruly muscles. “Don’t you have to work in the morning?”

“No,” she answered simply, a naughty smile teasing at her lips, as she shook her head.

Covering Allie’s hand with his own, Reece began to pull her torturing fingers away from his abs. He’d intended to just do that, but as his thumb brushed over her wrist and felt the racing urgency of her pulse, something swept over him. Using his hips, he turned Allie, pushing her back against the still closed door. Quickly, he bent forwards, his mouth passionately claiming hers.

The breath was sucked from Allie’s lungs in a surprised gasp of pleasure. She couldn’t begin to count the number of times Reece had kissed her and she thought she’d experienced every sensation he had to offer, but this was so different from anything she’d felt as a high school senior. This was like gasoline being thrown on a fire. This was an insatiable, desperate hunger.

Reece’s tongue moved over Allie’s drawing back and forth in imitation of a much more intimate act. Meanwhile, his hands had sought out her breasts, each globe fitting perfectly into his palm. His fingers stroked the outer curves, massaging her gently.

Allie arched forward, pushing more firmly into his hands, while her hips rubbed against him. He was too tall to gain any satisfactory contact with his groin, which was swelling at her naval. However, his thick thigh between her legs was pressing her clothing against her ever more restless sex. Grinding against that muscular leg, her arousal flooded her panties.

His breath coming hard and fast, Reece eased his mouth from Allie’s and rested a slightly sweaty forehead against hers. “What are we doing?” he panted.

Giggling, Allie continued to gently gyrate her hips. “If you don’t know, then we’re doing something wrong,” she laughed.

He found himself chuckling too, his eyes dipping to the breasts his hands continued to caress and the uncomfortable bulge in his restrictive black jeans. It would be so easy just to follow the demands of his body, but then what? “Please,” he groaned almost painfully, his hands reluctantly leaving her bosom and sliding down to still her hips. “I mean,” he began, pausing and lifting his head as he tried to clear it of the exclusively lustful thoughts bombarding it. “What does this mean?” he asked, looking down into her eyes and immediately regretting doing so. They were smoky, unfocused and heavy with arousal.

She continued to smile at him, pushing against his hands and thrilling at the strength he held within them. “You taught me about this, remember?” she joked.

“Allie,” he groaned, struggling to resist the urge to go back to her kiss-swollen lips. “Are we getting back together?” he asked, his brow creasing. “Is this just a…” he faltered. “What is this?”

Relenting, Allie gave up the fight to resume contact with his thigh and placed her ass back against the door. However, she refused to stop grinning at him. “I don’t want to get involved,” she told him. “That’s got nothing to do with you,” she quickly added, seeing a flash of hurt cross his features. “I just can’t be in a relationship right now.”

“Okay,” he said, nodding his understanding, but eagerly awaiting her next words.

“Beyond that,” she sighed. “We don’t have to give it a label, do we?” she suggested.

“Allie,” Reece shook his head, his hands slowly leaving her body altogether. “I’ve never been a one night stand kind of guy.” He wasn’t able to look at her as he spoke, knowing that his control would evaporate the moment he did. “I mean…” he added, taking a small step back.

“It’s not a one night stand,” she quickly reminded him. “We’re not strangers and we’ve done this before.”

“I know.” Swallowing a large lump in this throat, Reece glanced up at the hallway’s cream ceiling. “I think that makes it worse,” he sighed. “It could never just be sex with you, Allie.”

Sensing that she was losing him to chivalry, Allie realized she was going to have to stop trying to win this game with a battle of words. Lunging forwards, she quickly grabbed his waistband and tugged him towards her. Using both hands, she hurriedly set about unfastening his pants.

“Allie,” Reece half-heartedly argued, his fingers moving down to grasp hers. “I don’t want us to do something you’ll regret in the morning.”

She fought against him, moving one hand quickly to avoid him and then returning to her task. “Trust me,” she insisted. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“Al-” Reece attempt to say her name was halted as her fingers crept between the gap in the thick denim and clasped his semi-erect shaft. “Oh, God,” he gasped, when her hand enclosed his thickness.

“I regret the fact that we didn’t do this more,” she told him, her tone sultry and soft as her hand slowly began to move up and down his length. “I regret that I never did this,” she added, easing him through the gaping fly, while sliding her back down the door.

Reece watched her settle on her knees with a mixture of excitement and panic. “We’re in the middle of your hallway, Allie, what if one of your-” his words, which had been spoken rapidly were brought to a screeching stop, as the tip of her tongue circle his bulbous tip.

Allie lapped at the clear fluid dripping from him, before opening her mouth wide and sucking that soft domed head between her lips. Gradually, she inched further taking more and more of him.

“Oh, God,” Reece whispered, his eyes falling closed. He lifted his hands to the door, bracing himself at arm’s length.

She had known he was big, but had forgotten just how large. Having been the first penis she saw in the flesh, she’d had no frame of reference at the time. Now, especially after the seven lovers she’d recently had, she fully appreciated Reece’s assets. She guessed he was easily over eight inches in length and holding her hand around him, her long, slender fingers barely met, causing her to marvel at how he had not caused her great pain the first time he’d entered her.

She knew there was no way she could take all of him in her mouth, she was not experienced enough in the art of fellatio. However, the noises coming from above her assured her that she must have been doing something right.

A stream of nonsense came from Reece’s mouth. “Jesus…Yes….So good….Ugh….Allie,” he gasped, as her soft, wet tongue traced the thick, distended vein on the underside of his shaft.

Feeling suddenly more bold, Allie bobbed her head forwards, releasing a long, low hum as she drew him passed her gag reflex and down into her throat.

“God!” Reece exclaimed loudly. “Please,” he panted, lowering his voice, as he was, on some level, still aware of the very public display they’d make for any of Allie’s neighbors. “You’ve got to stop. I’m so close.”

Allie was tempted to ignore his pleas, part of her wanted to feel him come in her mouth. However, another part of her wanted to ensure that the evening didn’t end quite so soon. Slowly, she drew back, letting her tongue linger over him for much longer than was necessary, before releasing him altogether. She looked at his member, glistening with her saliva, while she swept the back of her hand across her mouth.

“Ahh,” Reece sighed in semi-relief and semi-frustration.

When Allie finally looked up, she noticed that his eyes were closed, his head tilted back, as he gulped in air through an open mouth. The powerful effect of knowing she had done that to him was unimaginably sexy. “So,” she drawled saucily, as she gracefully pulled herself upright. “You still want to go?”

Sensing her movement, Reece opened his eyes and dipped his head to find her face, beaming up at him. “No,” he shook his head.

“Good,” she nodded, reaching behind her blindly and finding the doorknob with practiced ease. With a quick twist, she was stepping backwards into the apartment. She grinned at the picture he made, with his massive, stiff, wet cock poking out of his pants and a look of pure surrender on his face. Reaching out, she offered him her right hand.

Without hesitation, Reece grasped her fingers with his own and happily allowed himself to be tugged into the apartment.

Kicking the door behind them, Allie didn’t let go of Reece’s hand, but to ensure there would be no more gentlemanly compunctions to spoil the evening, she also wrapped her free fingers around his shaft. “Come with me,” she urged, as she lead him towards the bedroom.

Reece followed with a humorous, “Yes ma’am,” while his hand caressed the tight, ass cheek in front of him.

As soon as she crossed the threshold of the bedroom, Allie released Reece and grasped the hem of her shirt with both hands. Quickly, she whipped it up and over her head, dumping it on the carpet by the foot of the bed. Her hands just as rapidly reached behind her, unclasping her bra. It too, was dropped carelessly.

Reece smiled as he watched her, but as she moved to remove her jeans with the same speed, he shouted, “Woah!” Slowly stepping forwards, he continued a quieter mantra. “Woah, woah, woah.”

Bewildered, Allie froze. She was frightened that he was about to become noble on her again, but the condition of his manhood, which seemed to have become even bigger, suggested not.

“I want to savor this,” he said, his hands reaching out to her waist. “You’re so beautiful,” he mumbled, his eyes moving leisurely over her semi-pale torso. His gaze moved up and he lingered over her breasts, the rigid pink tips and the areola puckered with gooseflesh. Ducking his head to that sexy, sensitive flesh, he placed his mouth over one of those warm pebbles.

Allie’s hand automatically drifted to the back of his head, encouraging him. Her fingers tangled in his thick, black hair, as she released a contended moan. “Reece,” she whimpered.

Too soon, however, he was moving. His mouth trailed kisses down her body, around the curve of her breast and over her stomach, as he fell to his knees. When he came to the waistband of her jeans, his hands swept from her hips to the brass button just beneath her naval. Gradually, he unclasped it and began to tug the blue jeans over her hips. Reece was met by the powerful musky aroma of her arousal. Glancing up at her, he found Allie looking back at him. Her hands were both resting on his head, fingers drawing lazy patterns over his scalp. Her eyes were pleading with him, but he couldn’t be sure whether they were desperate for him to continue slowly kissing every inch of her or to simply hurry up and enter her.

“Reece,” she said, almost too softly to be heard.

Gripping her hips more firmly, Reece’s strong arms propelled her to the right, until her legs were brushing against the foot of the bed. Then, with a strong shove, he tossed her onto the mattress.

“Ahh,” she squealed, giggling.

Quickly, he pulled her jeans and her panties down to her ankles. When his upper body came back up her legs, he gently held her knees and parted them. Her sex opened like a flower, gleaming with her juices. His eyes quickly flicked up her body, to find Allie gripping her bottom lip with her teeth and the bed sheets with a ferocious grasp of her manicured nails.

Gradually, he lowered his mouth to the sweetness that was calling to him. Gently, he stroked his tongue between her swollen outer lips and felt her instantly jerk beneath him.

Allie tightened her grip on her lip, until she tasted blood. She whimpered helpless, her hips flailing restlessly, as Reece continued to slowly explore her sex. She tried to keep her upper body up, resting on her elbows, as she became mesmerized by the movement of his head between her legs. However, as Reece moved to her clitoris and began focusing his attentions there, Allie felt her strength abandon her and she flopped back onto the bed like a rag doll. When she felt two, strong fingers enter her, she began mewling and writhing beneath him, her eyes fluttering closed.

Reece knew she was close and lapped ferociously and firmly at the tiny bud, as he unhurriedly thrust back and forth with the index and middle fingers of his right hand. She smelt and tasted sweet and clean, with just a hint of saltiness. That nectar was flowing so fast and hard that it was dripping over her buttocks and pooling on the sheet beneath her. Pushing his face more firmly into her, he moaned, prompting vibrations to rock through her.

Allie opened her mouth and exhaled a breath, trying to cry out. Instead, nothing erupted forth. She mutely screamed his name, as her thighs unconsciously clamped his head firmly, holding him in place.

Chapter Eight

Could This Be Real

Allie slowly removed herself from the arms of Morpheus to find her warm pillow moving. It was a small, almost imperceptible undulation, accompanied by a soft, rhythmic thud against her ear. She recalled falling asleep to a faster, harder version of that rhythm. Gradually she opened her eyes and found her hair draped over a tanned chest. As she tried to move, she realized one of her arms was beneath her, while the other was clinging to the warm torso, half-beneath her. Her right leg was tossed over another, more muscular, hairy leg and her inner thigh had something large, warm and flaccid nestled against it.

“Mmm,” she hummed delightedly, tightening her hold on the comfortable pillow.

“Hey,” a deep voice, groggy with sleep, muttered above her.

Tilting her head, Allie looked up at Reece and smiled. A few unruly strands of his thick hair had fallen onto his forehead, this coupled with the joyful grin on his face, gave him an almost naïve, boyish quality. Allie wasn’t fooled, however. The events of the night before left no doubt. Reece was far from naïve, and if Allie had thought he knew his way around a woman’s body at the age of eighteen, it was nothing to what he seemed to have learned in the interim.

“Hey,” she responded warmly. Turning, so she was lying more completely on top of him, she shuffled up his body. “Wow,” she grinned, kissing his lips briefly.

“Yeah,” he acknowledged, sleepily. “Wow, is right.”

“I would ask where you learned some of those moves,” she whispered thoughtfully. “But I don’t think I want to know.”

Reece, dropped his head back on the pillow and chuckled. “It’s not like that,” he insisted. “I mean, I’m not some jerk who-”

Allie silenced him with another kiss, allowing this one to linger a little longer. “It’s all right,” she said, when she finally pulled away. “You don’t have to explain anything to me.”

With a nod of understanding, Reece fixed Allie with a serious expression. “Last night was incredible,” he said.

“For me, too,” she told him, smiling.

“So, umm,” he hesitated. “Can we see each other again?” he asked, placing his hand at the back of his head and tilting his chin, so he could watch her reaction.

Allie’s smile faltered. She was so very tempted to say, ‘yes’. She wanted to see Reece again, wanted to spend more nights, like the last one, with him. She knew, in the seconds after she’d woken, that being with him had been so very different from the others. Each time with the others, she’d experienced a thrill, a temporary satisfaction that burned with as bright a desire almost as soon as the moment passed. With Reece, however, some much deeper need in her had been quenched. She couldn’t give that need a name, but she knew it existed.

“Allie,” Reece nudged, nervously waiting for her reply.

“I…” she mumbled, shaking her head, as confused thoughts warred. One part of her brain screaming at her to see more of him while she still had the chance, while the other part reminded her not only of the problems associated with seeing him frequently, but also that she hadn’t yet fulfilled her goal. There were still three men she’d contacted and had arranged dates to see, and there were a further four that she remembered and wanted to track down. “It’s complicated, Reece,” she eventually huffed, rolling off him and grasping the sheet around her naked torso.

“It’s not,” Reece countered, sitting upright. “It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. I want to spend more time with you.”

“But my life is so hectic right now,” she told him, shuffling out of the bed and taking the large sheet with her. Twisting, she wrapped herself as though she were wearing a toga. “I told you last night, I can’t think about a relationship right now.”

“I’m not asking you to,” Reece insisted, still sitting on the bed and making no effort to conceal his nakedness. “Allie, please,” he said, lifting his palms. “I didn’t want to make you panic, I just wanted to see you again.”

“You said, it could never just be sex with you and me,” Allie replied, wandering agitatedly to the foot of the bed.

“It can’t,” he reiterated firmly. “Are you telling me that last night was nothing but sex to you?” he countered, a dark cloud passing over his brow.

“No,” Allie responded. “Of course it wasn’t, but…”

“Hey,” he soothed, shuffling off the bed and moving towards her. “You said we didn’t have to label it, right?”

Silently, Allie nodded her head.

“So, let’s not label it,” he urged, moving close enough to touch her, but keeping his hands to himself. “It’s not a relationship, but it’s more than sex. We don’t need to know any more than that.”

Allie considered that proposal. It didn’t solve all her problems, but with him standing there completely naked, it was incredibly tempting. “Can we think about it?” she asked quietly.

“Okay,” he replied, with a nod. “On one condition,” he added.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“That we go back to bed right now,” he smiled, cocking his head at the mattress.

Allie couldn’t prevent the smile that spread across her face. “I don’t know,” she murmured, with mock suspicion.

“If I haven’t left yet, it’s still the same date, right?” he asked jovially, both arms reaching out to her and tugging her towards him.

“That’s your logic, is it?” she giggled.

“Yep,” he confirmed proudly. Keeping a firm hold on the sheet, he spun her before pushing her back onto the bed. The sheet stayed with him, unraveling from Allie, until, when she landed on the mattress, she was naked once more.

She laughed loudly as she fell, screeching when she realized he was ripping the sheet from her. However, her laughter soon tapered off, when she noticed Reece wasn’t laughing with her. “What’s wrong?” she asked, looking up at him.

Reece was gazing back at her, a look of horror on his features.

“What is it?” Allie quickly blurted when she was met with silence.

Reece’s jaw slackened in dismay, as he lifted his hand and pointed at her torso.

Allie followed the line of his finger and found herself looking at a large blue bruise beneath her left breast. She didn’t notice Reece moving, but he stepped towards her and placed his palm on her right knee. Allie’s eyes flashed to his face in alarm. She opened her mouth to speak, but was forestalled when Reece gently parted her legs. There, on her inner thigh, was another bruise, this one much larger than the first.

“I hurt you,” Reece whispered, barely able to say the words for the bile rising up from his stomach.

“No,” Allie quickly stated, covering his hand with her own.

“Look at you,” he mumbled, flinching and sweeping his hand out from beneath hers. “They weren’t there last night, Allie,” he said, standing straight and raking his fingers through his hair. “I did that to you.”

“It’s not your fault,” Allie tried to placate him. “I just….I bruise easily,” she awkwardly explained.

“Allie,” he shook his head, disbelievingly.

“It’s true,” she insisted. “I’m a little anemic.”

Reece stood silently, watching her carefully, as he seemed to assess whether her body language suggested she was telling the truth. He couldn’t make up his mind. The fact that he remembered the night well and was certain he hadn’t been even remotely rough with her supported her explanation. And yet, something in her eyes troubled him.

“I promise,” she added sincerely. “You did not hurt me,” she insisted, looking him directly in the eye.

That, he was fairly certain, was the truth. “Are you sure?” he urged.

“I swear, Reece,” she stated, shuffling towards the edge of the bed, until her legs were hanging off the end. “Now,” she sighed, desperate to change the subject. “What were you saying about coming back to bed?”

***

Tossing her purse into the deep bottom drawer of her desk, Allie kicked the thing closed before angrily throwing herself into her chair.

“Hey, you feeling any better?”

Lifting her head to the sound of Grant’s voice, Allie scowled at him. “Huh?” she asked.

“Are you over the flu you had last week?”

“Oh,” Allie finally sighed, remembering the excuse she’d given for taking the latter half of the previous week off work. “Yeah, thanks,” she grumpily added.

“You’re a little late, I was wondering if you weren’t coming in today, either,” he noted good-naturedly.

“You keeping track of me?” she snapped.

“No,” he innocently replied. “No, I was just worried about you.”

Allie had wanted to take another day off. She’d intended to do just that. However, after she’d been unable to convince Reece to get back into bed with her, she felt too depressed moping around the apartment.

He’d left shortly after discovering her bruises, although he’d assured her that he no longer believed he’d hurt her, he still felt responsible for harming her. No matter how many times she told him she hadn’t even known the marks were there, he refused to make love to her again.

He’d gone, leaving her with nothing more than a kiss on the forehead and a promise that he’d call.

“I’m sorry, Grant,” she sighed, leaning both elbows on the desk and massaging her temples with her index fingers. “Things are just…” she stalled, before changing tact. “Anyway, I shouldn’t be taking it out on you.”

“Hey, no sweat,” he replied, beaming at her like a loyal puppy.

Allie had suspected for some time that Grant had a crush on her. She’d brushed it off, because he was too young and she was too busy. His willingness to excuse her bad moods and his eagerness to help with whatever shitty job she called on him to do, were proof of something beyond professional admiration.

As Allie allowed that thought to marinate, an idea came to her. Perhaps all she needed to lift her spirits was a good screw. And Grant, although not exactly the kind of guy she’d usually go for, was someone she knew and would, undoubtedly, be only too eager to please.

“Grant,” she said picking her head up.

“Yeah,” he called back.

Allie opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She tried to picture herself with him, maybe in one of the store cupboards, or upstairs in the morgue, amongst all the dusty old files. However, the image just wouldn’t come. Instead, all she could see was Reece.

“Allie?” Grant probed, noting some kind of conflict behind her eyes.

Shaking her head, Allie dismissed the thought of Grant and tried to picture someone else. Kyle, he wasn’t bad looking. Stephen or Carl. Still, the only face that occupied her brain was Reece’s.

“Are you okay, Allie?”

“Yeah,” she nodded numbly. “Sorry, I just…” she mumbled, pushing her chair back and rising to her feet.

“Did you want something?” Grant asked.

“No,” she responded. “No, thanks,” she assured him, making her way across the open plan office space. “I think I need a coffee,” she absentmindedly tossed over her shoulder, as she plodded towards the break area.

She stood for several minutes, her fingers clamped around the handle of the percolator, as she tried to work out what the hell had happened over the course of twelve hours. Suddenly, her desire to make up for a lack of sexual experiences was narrowed to a desire to simply have more sex with Reece. This was something she hadn’t expected: that one of the men she’d dated over the last few weeks would become a preoccupation. She thought about all of the others fondly, she remembered her time with them as exciting and she certainly didn’t have any regrets. But this was different, the night before wasn’t just another good memory to add to the collection. Was he really that good? She shook her head at the rhetorical question. He was absolutely that good. However, there was much more to it than his performance.

There was no longer any question in her mind: she had to see him again. Whether or not that fitted with the original plan didn’t matter. Whether he had seen bruises on her body didn’t matter. The only thing Allie cared about was spending another night with Reece. She could only hope that one more night would be enough to quench her thirst for him.

Chapter Nine

One Last Night

But one more night, turned into two nights, three, four and then five. The frequency with which she saw Reece was complicating matters. Allie had taken to trying to cover her bruises with foundation. Sometimes it worked well, especially when she was able to wake before him and apply the make-up to the blue patches of skin. Other times, Reece noticed the discoloration. However, Allie was satisfied with the fact that he believed her to have anemia and, as long as he didn’t see any large or particularly bad contusions, she felt sure he would continue to believe that.

Lying to him was not something that came easily, though. Truth be told, she hated it. She couldn’t look him in the face whenever he mentioned the marks on her flesh or the fact he thought she’d lost a little weight.

And it was all made so much worse by the fact that the more time she spent with him, the more time she wanted to spend with him. She loved being in his company, it didn’t matter what they did and it had gone far beyond just fulfilling a sexual desire. On the third night, they didn’t even have sex. Instead, cuddled up on her couch, watching an old Cary Grant movie, they’d both drifted off into peaceful sleep and remained there ’til morning.

She was happy, happier than she had been in a long time. Ironically, the knowledge of that made her profoundly depressed, because she was acutely aware of the fact it couldn’t last. She’d found true happiness, a man she could imagine herself growing old with, and she wasn’t going to get the chance to grow old at all. Her low moods were yet another cause to lie to Reece. She’d tell him she had a lot on at work, that she was stressed and just needed to unwind, which, at first, he had no reason to disbelieve. As time passed, she knew he’d begin to suspect there was something more to her mood swings.

Meanwhile, she’d been cancelling or postponing dates with old flames she’d met online, including Mitch Hatley. He continued to write and send text messages, while she politely stalled him. Allie was reluctant to give up the idea of grabbing that particular lost opportunity, but, at the same time, wondered if she could ever want to sleep with any man except Reece – she certainly couldn’t imagine it. Her dreams were filled with him and her waking fantasies refused to drift to any other man, no matter how handsome.

In short, Allie knew that her relationship with Reece, for, like it or not, that’s certainly what it had become, had to end. She simply couldn’t continue to lie, and she didn’t want to torture herself with the taste of a life she would never really get to experience.

But breaking things off was going to be difficult. Like a crack addict, she lacked all will power around him. He only had to flash a glimpse of that gorgeous smile or say her name in that deep, baritone voice of his and she was unable to resist. Nevertheless, she had to find the resolve from somewhere.

***

“You’ve been quiet,” Reece noted, reaching for the glass of Shiraz in front of him.

Allie was just pushing the food on her plate around, feeling far too sick to put anything in her mouth. “I’ve just been thinking,” she shrugged.

“About?” he prodded.

“Us,” she replied, sucking in a steadying breath, as she mentally prepared herself for the conversation she’d rehearsed a hundred times.

Reece could see she was nervous and guessed good news was not on her mind. “Okay,” he nodded, replacing the glass on her small kitchen table and leaning forwards. “What is it?” he asked.

“Reece,” she sighed, staring at the fingerprints he’d left on the glass. “I told you, I can’t be in a relationship right now.”

“I know.”

“So, we can’t do this anymore,” she continued, realizing that he simply didn’t see the problem.

“Why not?” he smiled.

“Ree-”

“Look,” he quickly interrupted, knowing exactly what she would say if he allowed her to continue. “You said no relationship, we’re not in a relationship.”

“Do you know how many times we’ve seen each other over the last several weeks?” she argued, leaning back exhaustedly against the uncomfortable wooden chair.

“Most nights,” he admitted. “But that doesn’t mean anything,” he added. “There’s no pressure, Allie,” he urged. “You’re busy, that’s fine. You don’t want to tell your parents that we’re dating again, that’s fine, too.”

“Reece,” she muttered, shaking her head.

“It’s completely casual, Allie. If that’s what you want, you got it.”

Drawing in a shaky breath, Allie tried to remind herself of what was at stake; why she had to call a halt to things now. “And what do you want?” she asked, wondering if a different angle would help her cause.

“What do you mean?”

“Let’s forget what I want for a second,” Allie said, meeting his eyes. “What do you want?”

Placing his palms on the table either side of his plate, he glanced down thoughtfully. “Honestly,” he mumbled. “I don’t know.” Turning his eyes back to her, he shrugged one shoulder exaggeratedly. “I’m not promising you romance and roses, Allie, because I don’t know where this is heading any more than you do. What I do know is that I like being with you.” He paused momentarily, before smiling to himself. “I really like being with you, so I’ll take whatever it is you’re offering.”

“I’m not offering anything, Reece,” she responded sadly, tears welling in her lower lids.

Refusing to answer right away, Reece sat quietly, running his fingers up and down the stem of the wine glass. “You want me to go?” he asked.

“I can’t offer you anything,” Allie continued, ignoring the question. “I should never have let things go as far as they did. I shouldn’t have agreed to meet you in the first place,” she told him, hot tears beginning to spill onto her cheeks. “Sooner or later, this has got to end.” Sniffing she tried to hold back the droplets that trailed zigzag patterns down her cheeks. “I think it might be better for both of us, if we just end it now.”

Scraping his chair backwards on the tiled floor, Reece shot to his feet. Allie had half-expected him to just turn around and march out of the door, but he rounded the table and crouched beside her. Placing one hand on her leg and the other curled around her chin, he turned her to face him. “Allie, what’s going on?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she sniffed, trying to remove her face from her grasp.

Reece refused to let go. “I know you’re lying to me,” he responded flatly. “Look, whatever it is, you can tell me.”

“I can’t,” she sobbed, the dam breaking and tears flowing with abandon.

“Yes, you can,” he insisted firmly. “Are you pregnant? Did you kill someone? Are you on drugs? Is your husband coming home any minute?”

No longer able to form intelligible words, Allie made abortive attempts to answer. However, to Reece a reply wasn’t necessary at that moment. Shuffling onto his knees, he placed his arms around her waist and pulled her towards him. Allie moved without any fight, her arms quickly clamping around his neck and embracing him furiously, as she continued to sob into his neck. For several minutes, they clung to one another like that, Reece gently rocking her and whispering nonsense words of comfort.

Eventually, still weeping heavily, Allie began to press her lips to Reece’s neck and the top of his collarbone, which was visible in his T-shirt. As she continued to nibble, and lick at his skin, her sobs softened.

“Allie,” he nudged, rubbing his hand reassuringly over the small of her back. “It’s okay.”

Her lips moved up the side of his neck, sucking on the thin layer of flesh. “I need you,” she gasped breathlessly, starting a trail up his chin.

“Allie,” he breathed, torn between his desire to comfort her and the need to finish their conversation. “Maybe we should…”

“Please Reece,” she begged her mouth teasing at the corners of his lips.

His tongue reflexively ran along his bottom lip and tasted her salty tears. Slowly, he released his tight hold of her waist and lifted his hands to her face. Cradling her head in both of his large hands, he drew his thumbs under her eyes, wiping away most of the tears that had spilled there. “Whatever it is,” he said softly. “We can get through it together.”

Almost imperceptible, Allie shook her head.

“So, this is it?” he asked. The question was spoken quietly and without accusation.

“I’m so sorry,” she whimpered.

Reece inhaled a jagged breath. “What do you want from me now? One last fuck?” He was hurt, that much was evident and Allie didn’t blame him for that. And that had, after all, been the original plan. Except it wasn’t ‘fucking’.

“It was never just sex,” she stated calmly, fresh tears stinging at the backs of her eyes.

Reece’s fingers slowly slipped from her face. “I’m not so sure any more,” he shook his head, as he rose to his feet. “I mean, if you can’t talk to me…If you don’t trust me,” he added. “Then, what the hell has this all been about?”

Leaping to her feet, Allie grasped his forearm, sensing that he was about to make a move for the door. “It’s not about trust,” she countered. “You know I trust you.”

“Then why can’t you tell me?” he yelled in frustration.

“It’s not that simple,” she screamed back.

“Why not?” Reece snapped.

“Because I think I’m falling in love with you,” she returned, the words flowing before she had time to think about the consequences, let alone stop them.

Residual anger caused Reece’s chest to rise and fall in jerky heaves, as he gradually processed her blurted admission. It was said too quickly to have been a ploy, it was too nonsensical in regard to the things she’d been saying just moments before to have been a lie. In fact, he could see the panicked look on her face, which told him she wished she could take the profession back.

Allie waited anxiously for his response, her heart pounding violently against her ribcage.

Unhurriedly, he opened his mouth. “Why does that make things harder?” he asked calmly.

Shaking her head, Allie avoided his eyes. “I can’t explain,” she said.

For the first time in the few weeks they’d been seeing each other, Reece began to sense that she did indeed want to tell him whatever it was she was keeping hidden. Her eyes were pleading him to understand, her face hopeful that he wouldn’t just call her a ‘bitch’ and walk out of her life. He wanted to reassure her that his feelings hadn’t changed. And yet, words seemed cheap, ineffectual.

Giving in to a drive that had compelled him from the very moment he met her, Reece quickly closed the three steps between them. Wrapping his arms round her, he covered her mouth with his own, while pushing her backwards.

Caught completely off guard, Allie stumbled backwards, her butt meeting the edge of her kitchen table.

As Reece clasped and unclasped his lips wetly over Allie’s, he reached behind her and blindly swept his hand from left to right. There came a cacophony of noise as silverware hit the floor, plates and glasses smashed and the heavy half-full bottle shattered, splashing Reece’s blue jeans with red wine.

Placing his hands on her hips, he lifted her with ease, onto the small surface of the table. Placing himself between her legs, Reece gripped the front of Allie’s casual button-down shirt and ripped it open.

Everything was happening so fast that she couldn’t preempt his next move. However, Allie shrugged out of the torn shirt, trying desperately to keep her mouth connected to his.

Reece’s hands traveled to her waist, where he found the top of her black pants. With deft fingers, he unfastened a small button at the top of the pants, before pulling down a delicate little zipper. Allie could feel him tugging at the black fabric of her panties, she lifted one cheek off the table and then the other, helping him slide the clothing down her legs.

“I want you,” Reece muttered, forced to remove his lips from Allie’s, while he pulled the clothes down to her ankles. Once there, he abandoned them in his hurry to unfasten his own pants. The black leather belt and fly was quickly opened and, with the help of Allie’s hands, the jeans and his boxers were shoved off his hips. Gravity helped them down his thighs and his impressive erection sprang free.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Allie gabbled, placing her hands on his shoulders to prevent him closing the space between them. Her hands trembling violently, she clumsily grasped his shirt and tugged it over his head.

Realizing what she wanted, Reece took over, sliding the shirt off with ease and tossing it into the pool of clothes at his feet. “Okay,” he asked breathlessly.

“Yes,” she panted in reply, spreading her thighs as wide as she could in welcome.

Reece was desperate to be inside her, but he hesitated. An annoying part of him, felt compelled to ask whether he was doing the right thing. Brushing it aside, he realized it probably didn’t matter anyway. After this, he and Allie may never see each other again. So, he wanted to make sure he made the most of every second he had left with her.

Wrapping the fingers of his right hand around his shaft, he shuffled forwards, until the tip was nestled against Allie’s sex. “I’m sorry I yelled at you,” he breathlessly said, holding himself completely still.

Allie was blindsided by the apology, and had been staring down at where their bodies were about to become one. “That’s okay,” she quickly dismissed.

“No, it’s not okay,” he insisted. “I shouldn’t have lost my temper.”

“It’s all right,” she repeated. “You have every right to be angry with me.”

“I’m not so sure,” he said, his hands delicately tracing the cup of her lacy black bra. “Maybe you’ve been more honest with me than I’ve been with you.”

“Reece,” she whimpered impatiently, as she was teased by the tip of his manhood just dipping into her entrance. She lifted both arms, wrapping her hands around his neck and gripping her own wrist at the back of his head.

Gently, Reece pushed his hips forward, feeling the familiar way her tight warmth stretched and lengthened to greet him. Allie breathed deeply, as he smoothly slid deeper, a cry of ecstasy escaping her trembling lips when he finally filled her and she felt a small explosion of pleasure.

“Oh, God, Allie,” Reece moaned, experiencing the rapid clamping of her muscles. He tried to edge deeper still, but it was no use, he was already buried to the hilt in her softness. “I could stay like this forever,” he whispered, his cheek next to hers. “I love the feel of you.” There was a moment of silence, in which he made a decision. She had been more honest than he, and it was time to rectify that. “I love you, Allie.”

Chapter Ten

Her Last Love Affair

Everything had happened so quickly. Allie wasn’t sure how they’d ended up on the bed. By then, they were both completely naked. Reece sat cross-legged and she was sitting on his lap, with her legs wrapped around him. As Allie slowly undulated on top of him, they held each other tightly.

Reece’s face, sticky with sweat, was pressed against her chest. The palms of both hands spread wide on her upper back, helping her remain upright and simultaneously pulling her closer to him.

Allie’s hands were on Reece’s shoulders, although the slick perspiration kept causing her fingers to slip. She tried to use him as leverage, lifting her body in short rhythmic bounces.

She did realize that somehow they’d achieved a moment of calm. Things were suddenly much less frenetic than they had been in the kitchen. There, after Reece had made his declaration of love, he’d begun to thrust with powerful strokes that tipped the table back on two legs. Over and over again, he’d pounded hard and fast. Until that moment, Allie had thought she’d seen every color in the spectrum of Reece’s lovemaking, from quick and passionate to slow and tender. Suddenly, however, there’d been a different quality. As the spiraling sensations caused Allie’s limbs to give out and she’d lain back on the table, she was aware that the desperation in Reece was not a drive for her, but a drive to show her something.

She didn’t have time to work out what that something was, because no sooner had they orgasmed together in an abrupt eruption of masculine groans and feminine screams, than Reece swept her from the messy table and carried her to the bedroom.

Here, although their movements were more relaxed, there was that same sense of desperation, as they clung fiercely to one another. With the less intense experience of leisurely rocking against Reece, Allie’s brain was able to ponder what was happening between them. Had Reece’s energetic performance in the kitchen been his attempt to show her what she’d be missing if she stopped seeing him. Maybe. But he needn’t have bothered. Long before then, she’d realized what she was about to give up.

Had he been making sure that the last time was memorable? Perhaps. But then why had he told her he loved her?

“Allie,” he suddenly grunted, his lips just beneath her collarbone.

“Yeah?” she hummed absentmindedly, as she once more rolled her hips and ground her clitoris against the hard bone beneath his neat thatch of coarse hair.

“God,” he blurted, jerking upwards. “I…” he breathed. “I don’t want this to be the last time.”

Her hands instantly slipped over his shoulders and around his back, tugging him nearer. “I don’t want it to be, either,” she whispered, tearfully. Her thighs no longer strong enough to lift her, she became still except for a slight movement of her hips as she rubbed her mound against him.

Slackening his own grip on her, Reece shifted back slightly, so he could look up at her face. “But it has to be?” he asked solemnly.

Allie silently pleaded with him not to make her answer, but he continued to look at her expectantly. “Yes,” she eventually responded her voice soft and on the verge of cracking.

Reece’s eyes dropped to Allie’s shoulder. Then, with a sigh of defeat he flopped back onto the bed.

Allie went with him, her legs still straddling his and her upper body pressed against his hard chest. Her arms however, unraveled from around him, her palms landing on the mattress either side of his shoulders.

Reece continued to hold his loose grasp of her and his right hand rubbed soothingly over her shoulder blades. “Can I ask you something?” he softly wondered.

His thick, hard manhood still tightly tucked inside her, Allie found it strange that the mood had shifted so profoundly. However, like him, she suddenly had no interest in finding the momentary release of an orgasm. It seemed much more important to savor the feeling of closeness, to commit it to memory, so she’d be able to recall it whenever she needed him. “Yes,” she replied, settling her head on his chest and placing her ear to the strong, reliable beat of his heart.

“Will there ever come a time when you can tell me? Or am I always going to wonder what the hell happened between you and me?”

Allie closed her eyes, listening to the soft rumble of his words as they reverberated in his chest. “I don’t know,” she replied honestly. It was something she hadn’t even thought about. Would he one day read her obituary and realize what had been going on? “One day,” she sighed. “You might understand.”

He made a small humming noise, as though he accepted, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the answer.

Allie was blindsided by the image of Reece opening the paper or browsing the Chronicle’s website only to find that she was dead. Knowing him as she did, she realized he would not only be distressed, but he’d feel betrayed. Would the time they’d shared over the past two weeks be tainted? There was no question in her mind that, to him, it would be. Not only that, she sensed he’d be angry with himself for not putting the signs together. She could visualize the deep hurt, rage and frustration in his eyes and it caused her physical pain. How could she do that to him? The only man, with the exception of her father, who had ever really meant anything to her, and she was going to hurt him more deeply than any human being whose life she’d ever touched.

But, then again, did she really know him as well as she thought she did? After all, he’d just turned nineteen when she went off to college and they called it quits on their relationship. A person can change a lot in that time; she’d certainly changed. And perhaps she didn’t know him at all in the first place. It was possible that the Reece in her head was an adolescent fantasy, rose-tinted by the very fact of him being her first love.

Everything about the strong man lying beneath her indicated he was exactly what he claimed to be. Could she possible be mistaken? Was he really just another looser who would say and do anything just to get a girl into bed? No, that much she knew wasn’t true.

“Can I ask you something?” As she parroted his request, Allie braced her weight on her arms and pushed herself from his chest. Once she was in a sitting position, her hair curtaining her face, she peered down at him. Immediately regretting the speed with which she’d straightened, she felt a wave of lightheadedness and closed her eyes momentarily to stop the world spinning.

“Sure,” he replied, his hands moving to her hips and holding her gently.

Taking three quick breaths her dizziness gradually abated, and her eyes returned to him. “Did you mean it?”

His right eyebrow lifted in question. “What?”

“Earlier,” Allie responded, motioning with her head towards the kitchen. “When you said you love me, did you mean it?”

He regarded her for a split second, confused by the doubt he noticed in her features. Suddenly, he was moving, carefully cradling her waist as he flipped her to the right. Once her back hit the bed, he rolled atop her. “What do you think?” he answered simply, his deep, earnest eyes burning into her soul.

Allie let out a muffled “Ahh,” as she felt his stiff shaft edge further, filling her completely. She bucked against him, coaxing him further still, until the head of his manhood was deep inside her. “Reece,” she murmured, almost too breathless to speak.

“Do you think I’d lie to you about that?” he asked, his voice indicating more control than he was actually in possession of. “Do you think I would have taken you to bed that first time, if I didn’t love you?”

“I’m not that girl anymore,” she replied shakily, as she jerked beneath him again.

With a lightly exhaled chuckle, he dipped his head towards her. “I’ve noticed,” he whispered, before kissing her mouth. As his tongue slipped between her parted lips, he drew his hips back slowly. With the same measured pace, he returned to her body releasing a long, low moan into her mouth as he did so. “Christ,” he gasped, ripping his lips from hers. “Allie, honey, I’m close.”

“Not yet,” she begged. Her eyelids were suddenly far too heavy and they flittered closed. “Just a little longer Reece,” she panted. Pushing her hand between their joined bellies, she blindly groped for the base of his shaft, but he was too deeply held within her. Abandoning the notion of trying to delay his climax, her fingers moved to increase the onset of her own. However, as the pad of her middle finger met the swollen and tender flesh above her entrance, Reece’s own hand swiped her away.

“Let me,” he murmured urgently. “I want to make you come,” he added, before closing the space between their mouths once more.

Allie felt herself melt into the mattress, as Reece’s thumb gently rolled tiny circles against her clitoris and his tongue roamed possessively over hers. He continued to thrust, but did so slowly with deliberate pauses between each movement. Wrapping her right leg over left thigh, Allie smoothed her hands down his back, until her fingers met the firm, clenched muscles in his butt. Clasping him hard, but careful to keep her fingernails out of his soft skin, she urged him on.

The silent communication worked, and Reece stepped up the rhythm of his lower half, increasing the pressure of his thumb on her sensitive nub. “That’s it,” Allie gasped, turning her head to the right and gulping in a lungful of air. She could feel her body tightening in anticipation and began panting in shallower breaths.

“Ugh,” Reece groaned, as Allie’s hands unconsciously dug into his buttocks. It was pain just the right side of pleasure and he plunged into her with renewed vigor.

“Yes,” she murmured, as he stirred some new pleasure point. And then it came, like a powerful wave against the rocks, knocking the air from her body and sending trembled jolts of pleasure through every nerve ending. “Oh, Reece,” she breathlessly screeched, as her body began to pulse.

Quickly removing his hand from between them, Reece pulled back one final time. His last thrust was forceful, deep and accompanied by a masculine cry of pleasure.

Allie opened her eyes just in time to see his face, contorted in a mixture of agony and ecstasy, as she felt his warmth begin to flood her in strong surges.

“Ahh,” Reece groaned, his hips still lazily pumping, as he emptied himself. “Oh, God,” he panted. “Allie,” he breathed, his lower half slowly stilling, as his upper body flopped listlessly forwards. “Allie,” he repeated, gasping for breath.

Feeling his hot breath in the crook her of her neck and the pound of his heart next to her own racing one, Allie’s left hand slipped from his rounded buttock and grasped the back of his head. Gently, she ran her hands through his hair and stroked the nape of his neck, until his breathing had returned to something resembling normal.

“Am I crushing you?” he mumbled.

“No,” she instantly replied.

“You sure?” he countered. “I’m not too heavy?”

“No,” she insisted. “You feel good,” she added, wrapping her legs around him to prevent him from leaving her even if he wanted to.

Reece sighed happily against her skin. “Feels so good,” he muttered.

Allie could feel his shaft softening within her and sensed it wouldn’t be long before he would get up. Once he did, that would be it, she’d never be with him like this again. “Reece,” she whispered, almost unaware of the fact she’d spoken his name. “The last weeks have been incredible,” she said.

“For me too,” he responded, his right cheek still nestled on her shoulder.

“I mean, really incredible,” she continued. “I want you to know that.”

Forcing his heavy unresponsive body up, Reece held his weight on the palms he rested by Allie’s upper arms. “It’s all right,” he said, his voice thick with post-orgasm exhaustion. “I don’t exactly know what this has been,” he added, hair falling over his forehead in the way Allie found so cute. “But I don’t regret a moment of it.”

It was then that Allie realized she couldn’t in all honesty say she felt the same. There was something she regretted. Something she would regret, until the cancer ended all regrets. “There’s something I’ve got to tell you,” she softly announced.

“You don’t have to,” Reece told her, shaking his head, as he slowly pulled his flaccid member from her.

“No, I do,” she quickly countered, mourning the loss of him, as his body slickly left hers. “Please, Reece,” she begged, grasping his forearms and hurriedly sitting up.

“Allie,” he sorrowfully sighed. “It doesn’t change anything.”

“It will for me,” she insisted. “I don’t want you to leave without knowing why. I don’t want to push you away like this.” Allie’s words came quickly and coherently, much more coherently than her brain was functioning. “I…” she stumbled, her words suddenly lodged in her throat by unshed tears. “There’s something…” she attempted again, but halted when her vision blurred and unruly droplets spilled onto her cheeks.

Easing himself away from her, Reece sat down on the bed by her side. Allie instantly, turned to him and crawled onto his lap. He didn’t fight her, and as she settled, he wrapped his arms around her middle.

“I’m sick,” Allie sobbed quietly into his chest.

Reece only just understood her muffled words. “Okay,” he responded, at a loss as to how that fitted into the situation.

“I’m really sick,” she continued.

“I don’t…” Reece mumbled, shaking his head in confusion.

“I wanted to live the life that I’d missed out on,” she cried. “To make sure I had no regrets, so I started seeing men from my past.”

Reece remained silent and baffled. However, the last part of her sentence was quickly filed away as important to clarify, when she was able to speak with full sentences.

“It was just meant to be sex,” she sniffed, lifting her face to his.

Realizing that he probably no longer needed clarification, Reece suddenly felt very uncomfortable with where her confession was heading.

“I didn’t…I didn’t bargain on the way I feel about you,” she explained. “I want you, Reece,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks, which were just as quickly replaced with fresh ones. “But I know we can’t be together.” The world began to spin again and Allie was forced to close her eyes. “I can’t do that to you,” she murmured. “I can’t hurt you.”

“Allie,” Reece soothed, one palm slowly circling her back, while the fingers of his other head massaged her slender thigh. “I’m not sure I understand.”

Opening her eyes, Allie tried to focus on him. “I’m sick, Reece,” she repeated. “I’ve got leukemia,” she added. “I’m dying.”

Reece’s mouth fell open, as he felt Allie’s head flop back onto his shoulder. “I don’t…” he whispered. “You can’t…” he fumbled. “Allie.” He spoke her name reverently, as he pulled her tightly against his chest. It was only then that he wondered why she’d gone suddenly quiet. The tears had stopped. “Allie,” he nudged, lifting her face to him and finding her head much heavier than it should be. “Allie,” he repeated, panicked by her closed eyes and listless form. “Allie,” he tried more urgently, as he scooped her off his lap and laid her out on the bed.

Quickly, Reece placed his ear next to her mouth and was glad to feel soft, shallow breaths. His eyes landing on the jeans he’d abandoned by the edge of the bed, he leapt for them and started to turn each pocket inside out. Eventually, he grasped his cell phone and punched three hurried numbers. “Come on, come on,” he quietly muttered. “Yes,” he sighed with relief when the call was answered. “I need an ambulance.”

To be continued…

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Loving Him Peacefully

by

Lisa Martin

Chapter One

I sighed as I pushed the small pile of paperwork on my desk to the side, into the stack that would simply have to wait until tomorrow. It seemed like no matter how much I got through in a day, there was an endless supply of it that would be there, sitting and taunting me.

Yes. The paperwork is taunting you. It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that it’s part of the job. I rubbed my head with the tips of my fingers, the stressed out thoughts fighting for the dominant spot in my head. It had been a long day, and an even longer week, the hours stretching into endless measurements of time that seemed determined to be as difficult as possible. My head was throbbing from the complications that had arisen with one of our clients, a man that was filing his first patent with our company, and who was the problem that had been preoccupying my time when I should have been working on other things.

They were claiming that their rights had been violated in part, something about a breach of confidentiality on their patent, which hadn’t even technically been sealed yet. I was head of the patent research and enforcement team. Most of the research legwork was done by the up and comers, the same type of person that I had been when I’d first started here.

But even with my standing there, this wasn’t something that should have come across my desk. There was no way that I should have even had to worry about the mess that the case had become, but the two partners who owned the business where off gallivanting around the world, nearly impossible to reach unless they wanted to be, and the other executive who ran the office with me had his head so far up his backside that I was always surprised he was able to find his way in the front door of the building. The immediate board members were demanding answers, and there was no one else besides me qualified or willing to take on dealing with the case, hiring the lawyer, and seeing it through.

I had been a part of Trestmont Inc. for nearly eight years, and had been an executive, and acting member of the board, for the last two. I had poured my blood, sweat and tears into building the company. I hadn’t done it single handedly by any means, but I’d certainly done more than my share of the work to make it what it was.

I had done all that I could for today, looking over the information and lining up an appointment with a lawyer for next week. I needed to go home, get some rest, and get all of this garbage out of my head for a little while. Maybe even call my mother, who I hadn’t made the time to talk to in nearly a month.

When was the last time you ever made time for her? I thought irritably to myself.

When I’d gotten a scholarship to the state university of my choice, I had left the two bedroom apartment that she’d moved us to after my father passed away, and put myself through school at a pace that was unthinkable to most people. Eighteen hours most semesters, fifteen at the end when I got down to my senior level classes. I only went home for holidays on occasion, one day, maybe two, at a time.

And that had been my life. No second guessing where I wanted to go, or how hard I was willing to work to get there, aside from the small blip on my resume that had deviated from the corporate world. I had thought that I was interested in teaching, helping people in that way, before I found out that standardized testing was taking over the profession, and that they got paid next to nothing. Still, a double major looked good on any resume, so I proceeded, entirely unsure what I would do with it when I was done with college; but knowing that having both business and educational skills couldn’t hurt me in the long run.

Working in a corporate firm, my first choice of careers hadn’t been quite as fulfilling as the idealized version I had built up in my head. But it did give me a comfortable lifestyle, allowed me to interact with people and in this kind of economy, I couldn’t ask for more. At the time I consoled myself with the saying that my father used to say when he would come home from a long day of work: “They wouldn’t call it work if you enjoyed it.”

I just had no idea at the time that the effort it had taken to get me there, that the money and stability that I had become used to, wasn’t going to last forever. That last day was the proverbial calm before the storm. The final time that I would experience the normality that my life had started to revolve around.

***

“Mrs. Rougio?”

My assistant poked her head in the door, a clipboard in her hand, pleasant as ever, except for the tired lines that had appeared around her eyes in the past few months.

“Wimberly, how many times have I asked you to call me Katherine or Kate, or anything but my last name?” I asked her with a small smile. My last name was such a mouthful to anyone who hadn’t grown up pronouncing its vaguely Italian sounding pronunciation.

“Sorry, Mrs. Katherine,” she corrected herself, pushing her glasses a little further up her young and eager face, “But Mr. Jones is asking for you.”

I looked at the clock, which was showing three minutes until five. “And this can’t wait?”

“He seemed pretty insistent,” she told me apologetically. “But I can tell him I didn’t manage to catch you before you left?”

“Don’t worry about it.” With a wave of my hand, I dismissed her for the weekend. “Why don’t you go and get some rest. Maybe have some fun. I won’t need you on call this weekend.”

Her eyes lit up. “Thanks, Katherine.”

“Anytime,” I replied, watching a genuinely happy smile replace the girl’s tired features. It was always nice when I could manage to do something for someone else. I pushed myself away from the desk and stood to my full height, stretching my arms from the long hours of sitting. My feet were aching from the heels that they were squished into, and it was all I could do to not kick them off in that instant.

I knocked softly on the door to Mr. Jones, the head of the board’s, office, which was just down the hall from mine, on the topmost floor of the building. The instant that I walked in, all thoughts of kicking off my shoes fled from my mind. I was suddenly very, very fearful for my job.

They didn’t gather all of the board members together just to promote someone or pass along good news.

“Katherine,” Mr. Jones said, waving his hand and motioning me forward into the room, where four other men were pressed around his desk, looking uncomfortable, and stifled. None of them would look me in the eye, which did not do anything good for my nerves.

“Is everything all right?” I made sure that my voice sounded as strong as it was able to under the circumstances. The business world preyed on any kind of weakness, and these men were circling like vultures.

“No, actually, which is why I called you in,” he said. He gave a long sigh, like he had been thinking long and hard about something. “I need your help with a problem that’s on our hands, Katherine.”

“Anything, sir,” I told him. The feeling of relief over not being called in to be fired was so overwhelming that I almost didn’t catch his next words.

“I’m glad to hear it. I need you to delete all records we have of Oliver Bertrand, and the pending patent paperwork we have concerning his product.”

Chapter Two

Oliver Bertrand. The name that had been on the breach of confidentiality agreement that had come across my desk. They wanted me to delete all records of him.

“If I may,” I asked, my voice finally starting to show a little bit of a worried wobble behind the words, “Why are you asking me to do this? Why not simply do it yourself?” I knew how disrespectful the words sounded, but I couldn’t keep them from coming out of my mouth.

“Don’t worry Katherine, I’m not asking you to do anything illegal,” he said, making a motion like he was trying to assure me, and not doing so in the slightest. “We haven’t pushed through with the paperwork yet, so technically we can delete the files, as though we never had them in the first place.”

“But…won’t that be hard to do? He’s already filed a petition for breach of confidentiality on our contract,” I responded, shaking my head slowly from side to side. Even if I could do what they were proposing, it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be ethical, no matter whether or not it was technically legal.

“He’s started the beginnings of a petition. He needs documentation to move forward, which will take him at least a few weeks to get a court order to retrieve. But by that time, the files will be long gone. Mr. Bertrand will have never been listed as a client with Trestmont.” Mr. Jones sounded so sure of himself, so confident that this would work and that I would do what was being asked of me.

“But if Mr. Bertrand doesn’t get his patent, won’t his competition be able to lay claim to his ideas?” I asked, almost stumbling over the words. My heart was pounding ferociously in my chest, my breath starting to shorten from the panic that I felt over being asked to do something like this.

Mr. Jones stroked the length of his chin, his fingers scratching at the short stubble of hair that was stretched across it. “Mr. Bertrand’s problems of losing his patent would no longer be our problem, once this matter is taken care of.”

“Isn’t there another way to handle this? My mind was scrambling for any kind of answer that would break me out of this shell, get me out from in between a rock and a hard place.

“Do you think,” one of the board members behind Mr. Jones said dangerously, placing his hand flat on the desk and moving himself forward, “that we would resort to this if there were any other options left to us?”

“What Mr. Hatton is trying to say,” Mr. Jones interrupted, his eyes darting nervously to his college and then back to me, probably afraid that the man would say more than what was necessary, “Is that we have reached the end of the line. We respect that fact that this is a difficult decision, but it is one that you need to make if you intend to continue working for us.”

“So that’s it.” It was a statement, not a question. They couldn’t risk me staying there and working for them if they didn’t know that I would be one hundred percent loyal to their cause. The sad thing was, up until about five minutes ago, I would have fought tooth and nail to keep my position there, I would have defended the company’s abilities and trustworthiness in front of a damn jury.

How wrong I had been.

“How long do I have to give you an answer?” I asked quietly, looking from man to man, searching for something to give me some hope. Mr. Jones sounded cold and indifferent when he answered me.

“We need your answer by the end of the day, Katherine. If I don’t hear from you this evening, I’ll assume that you aren’t serious about keeping your job here.”

“I’ll let you know.” My answer was short and curt, nearly matching the tone that he had used when talking to me. I gave him a slight tilt of my head, having lost all respect for him. I knew he was in a bad position. Hiring a lawyer for the company would look bad, would run off other potential clients, and would be costly and expensive, not to mention probably centered in the public eye. He wanted to keep his company alive. But that didn’t justify stepping on someone else to get there.

I walked from the building that had meant so much to me over most of the past decade. A piece of me, the weakest part, threatened to well up with tears, wanting to rid itself of the worry that had invaded my body and made itself so comfortable. Another part marveled at how, half an hour ago, my biggest worry had been the shoes on my feet. But the most dominant part, the part that led me out of the building and kept me going, was the part that just wanted to forget it all. To not remember that it mattered.

***

I couldn’t even bring myself to crawl into the confining space of my car. The car that had been bought and paid for by my endless hours spent at this company. The luxurious car that I’d saved and drooled over like a teenage boy seeing a Porsche for the first time. It had meant so much to me at the time, a symbol that I was finally moving up in the world.

Now? I couldn’t give a damn about the stupid thing, couldn’t get away from it fast enough. I relied on my own two feet to carry me as far from that building and that lifestyle as they possibly could. The world that I had so longed to belong to, and for so long been a part of, suddenly seemed full of treacherous uncertainties.

How many other times had they done something like this without telling me? Suddenly, I was reliving everyone that had been let go in my time there, analyzing every little moment that seemed suspicious to my sleep deprived, and strung out on worry, mind.

Stop doing this to yourself! The command was coming from whatever sense of self-preservation that I had left. I was going to drive myself crazy trying to discover some meaning behind it all. They were doing something corrupt, plain and simple. It didn’t mean that there was some great, big conspiracy theory behind it, did it?

No. But it means that you don’t want to be a part of it.

I struggled with the realization, but it had taken root, and refused to be pulled up and cast out. The truth was, I was more than just a little uncomfortable with what they were asking me to do.

So the question became, not if, but when. I only had a few hours to call them and tell them what I was thinking, or they would let me go anyway. At least this way, I could do it on my own terms. It may not mean much to some people, but that was the difference between being dragged to your own death, or walking into it with your head held high. In the end, I would still be terminated, my work life there cut short, but it would be of my own doing.

Because I would not be a part of ruining a man’s life, legal or not. It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair.

Chapter Three

I picked my cell phone up out of my pocket, only allowing myself one terrified moment to stare at the tiny black device before taking a deep breath, and dialing the number to the office. It couldn’t be put off any longer. My decision was already made, so why waste the time and energy letting it eat away at me for even longer?

The phone only rang twice before it was picked up.

“Clarence Jones,” came the voice on the other end of the phone, businesslike and straightforward, even though by now it was after hours, and there couldn’t have been many clients calling.

“Mr. Jones,” I started, “It’s Katherine.”

“Have you made your decision yet?” He asked. His tone was flat, neutral, with no anticipation in it. He must have inferred from my tone of voice that I wouldn’t be participating in his plan.

“I have, sir. I won’t be erasing the evidence of Mr. Bertrand from the computer system.”

“I see,” he said slowly. I could almost imagine him stroking his beard again with his hands as he spoke to me. The image didn’t help the nervous flutters in my gut that were stemming from the displeased sound of his voice. “I’m sorry to hear that Katherine. You were a valuable asset to our company. Are you sure that you won’t reconsider?”

“I’m sure.” My voice was firm and unyielding. No matter what the cost, I couldn’t bend my own morals around something that was obviously and totally wrong.

“Then I’m afraid this is good-bye. You can come and collect your belongings first thing Monday morning. Return your key to me before you leave.” Click. The phone line went dead as Mr. Jones slammed the receiver into the cradle, making me wince at the sound.

There would be other jobs. But at least I could go home to bed that night, and know that I hadn’t compromised my beliefs, that I hadn’t been the one to do the wrong thing. And at the end of the day, that had to matter more than a comfortable lifestyle, right?

At least, that’s what I told myself at first. And to be honest, I still did believe it. But that knowledge was hard to hold on to when I was suddenly struggling to pay for even a cup of coffee in the morning, and an off-brand version of macaroni and cheese had become the dinner menu almost every night. I was suddenly reliving all of my horrible college days, where I’d been scrounging around to be able to pay for classes and my crappy off campus apartment.

So it wasn’t luck that I had a huge savings to dip into now, one that I’d been working on as soon as I got out of college. Too many friends and relatives had gotten into debt early on in their life for me not to realize the importance of saving money for a rainy day. Not to mention, working and going to school full time had taught me the full value of a dollar.

I’d already considered giving up my apartment and trying to find something smaller and more appropriate for my new budget, which was currently, nothing, but by the time I’d broken the contract on my current apartment, paid a deposit on the new place, and hired someone to move my stuff, I would have been paying almost as much as just staying the last few months.

I had a job interview the next morning, so I had allowed myself the luxury of having a nice dinner and a long, hot soak in the bathtub before getting out and laying down. I wanted to make sure that I felt completely myself for the interview the next morning.

Things will be back to normal soon, I told myself sleepily, just before drifting off.

But no amount of preparing could have changed what went down at the course of that meeting. It was clear from the very moment that I walked through the doors that the interview had been a courtesy, a way of not turning me down without appearing to give me a chance.

“I have several recommendation letters,” I said, pushing them towards him, “And all of my skills listed, along with how long I worked at my recent job.”

The interviewer’s doughy round face turned slightly red at the mention of my previous position. “This appears to be quite an impressive resume Katherine…but I’m afraid we just can’t use you.” The words rang in my ears, quite similar to so many of the interviews that I had been to lately. Every single place I’d been had placed an ad for needing an executive, or at least a position with the possibility of advancement. I had the skills, the ambition, the work ethic. And yet somehow, they didn’t’ need my services.

“I promise Mr. Etterly, I am an extremely hard worker,” I begged, trying to plead my case, even though he was trying to shut me down. But he shook his head before I’d even finished speaking.

“It’s not that I don’t doubt your abilities. I’m sure you’re very capable. But the thing is…” he said, lowering his voice and folding his hands together, “We’re team players here Miss Rugio. I can’t hire an employee when I can’t trust that they won’t do as they’re asked.”

I sat straight up in my seat, finally understanding.

“Let me guess,” I said, aware that my icy tone was completely unprofessional, and still not caring in the slightest. “When Mr. Jones found out I had an interview with your company, he felt the need to personally call and give you his opinion on me.”

The man shrugged, almost apologetically. “We place a lot of emphasis on prior employer’s comments, and the reasons that the employee left the company.”

“So I’ve been…what? Blacklisted? I’m not allowed to work in the industry?” Outrage filled my voice. It wasn’t bad enough that Jones had fired me for not doing something that was borderline illegal, no matter what he said, but now he had to go and keep me from getting a job anywhere else?

“I appreciate your time,” the man said, standing and offering his hand to me, apparently unwilling or unable to say anymore.

“Yeah, thanks.” My mind was distracted, wheels spinning, and anger fuming underneath my skin. I couldn’t bring myself to be any nicer, although I knew I was burning what little of the bridge was left between myself and a possible employer.

I had hardly walked out of the building before pulling out my phone and angrily dialing Mr. Jones’s direct line.

“Hello?” He asked, after answering the phone with his name, the same way that he always had. “Hello?”

“Mr. Jones,” I said coldly, “Can you tell me exactly what you think you’re doing by jeopardizing my job interviews?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean Katherine.” His voice sounded wary, like he was itching to put the phone down before I had a chance to say anything else. But I wasn’t going to give him that chance.

“Like hell you don’t!” I spat out. “I saw the news about Reese Simpson getting the patent for the same thing Oliver Bertrand had pushed for. Imagine how well the public would take it if they knew that was only because you sabotaged him?” Threatening normally wasn’t my area of expertise, but I knew how worried Jones had been when all of the stuff with Oliver was going on. He had to be ten times more nervous now that he’d almost gotten away with it, only to have me bringing it up again now.

“What,” he asked, anger in his voice, “…what exactly are you trying to say?”

“Let me be very clear. Don’t try to keep me from getting another job. Or I’ll make sure that everyone knows it was your doing that Oliver’s patent fell through. Proof or not, it’s going to be pretty hard to talk your way out of.”

“It’s already done,” he insisted. “And I pulled quite a lot of strings to have it accomplished. There’s nothing that I can do about it now.”

“Then undo it.” I hung up on him, slamming down the phone the same way that he had done to me a few weeks prior. That self-righteous….words weren’t bad enough to describe how I felt about him.

The street outside the office that I had gone to the interview in was bustling, crowded and busy with both tourists and people trying to get to work. It would have been nice if I were one of the ones lucky enough to be going to a job.

It was starting to get cold, the chill of fall seeping in and taking over. My anger didn’t subside as I walked through the chilly weather, and if anything I grew angrier at my predicament.

I didn’t deserve this. I had been a damn good employee, a great employee. They had no right to do this to me. I had given everything that I had to that company, only for them to fire me for something that…

At that very moment, my train of thought was cut off by catching sight of a bright, boldly lettered sign that was across the street, hanging on the length of a cyclone fence.

Have you always thought that helping others was your calling? Do you have experience with volunteer work, or would you like to?

Then the Peace Corps might be for you!

Come volunteer today!

A number was listed under it, but it was unnecessary. The small building behind it had a sign that clearly displayed it as the local outpost and headquarters of the volunteer organization.

***

It was an impulse decision. That’s all I can say, other than claiming some kind of temporary insanity. When I thought of the Peace Corps I always envisioned people digging ditches in Vietnam or immunizing sick kids in Africa. None of which was bad, not in the slightest, but when I’d pictured my life, I had never seen it in that way.

Would it really be so bad?

I would probably have done more good working with them than in the entire eight years I’d been at Trestmont. And fighting with Jones was like trying to win a battle that was already lost. Threatening him wouldn’t do me any good in the long run, except maybe put some pressure on him for a while.

But as I started to walk towards the slightly run down looking office, the heavy feeling that had been in my heart since I’d gotten fired, seemed to finally be lifting. That’s when I knew that I was making the right decision.

There were two people sitting at desks when I walked in. One was sitting with a short blonde haired girl, filling out some paperwork. The other one, a middle-aged woman with shoulder length red hair, jumped up at my entrance, like she’d been waiting for something.

“Good morning!” She said enthusiastically, already handing me a flyer and eyeing me like she was sizing me up. With an approving nod, she continued speaking. “Are you interested in volunteering? We have six offices in the whole state, but we have been a bit short on volunteers as of late. Hence, the new sign out front.”

“That’s actually why I came in.” I took a deep breath and then looked her dead in the eyes. “Where do I sign up?”

She laughed, a small, tinkling giggle that made me feel better, not like she was making fun of me. “I appreciate the enthusiasm. Let’s talk, see where you’d best be suited, and we’ll get you figured out and then sign the papers!”

She clapped her hand on my shoulder and led me to her desk. As I sat down to talk with her, I realized for the first time in almost a decade, I felt good about what I was doing.

Chapter Four

The airport around me was humming with activity, people, shuttles and trolley’s bustling from place to place within its walls. I know it’s crazy, but at that moment, it felt like it was reflecting the nervous energy that was building in anticipation inside of me.

The two weeks that had passed hadn’t been able to go by quickly enough, but now that I was finally here, time seemed to move even slower. I had only been waiting about fifteen minutes to go through baggage claim, but it felt like days.

I kept a close eye on the arrivals and departures board. Flight to Brazil, scheduled layover in Florida, Estimated Departure—2:00 p.m.

My flight. The start to my new life. They’d decided that because of my degree in Teaching and Education, that I would be most useful teaching at one of the schools that had been set up for underprivileged children that lived in the Amazon. The tribe had reluctantly agreed to let Americans build a school near their village, and I would be allowed to stay there, to help them grow and thrive in whatever ways I possibly could.

It was more nerve-wracking than any job interview I’d ever had, or any case that I’d handled at Trestmont. I was actually going to be responsible for doing something, for teaching something, that could change someone’s life. It had taken me the full two weeks not only to pack, but to get my ideas together, although I had been told I would have to restructure my lesson plans based on what level the children were at.

I glanced another look at my watch. 1:30. The plane would be allowing people to board soon, so at least I wouldn’t have to sit at the gate for very long. The crowd of people around me thinned as each made stops at the flight gates that they would be leaving from until there were only a handful of people left. One of them was a handsome man that looked around my age, sitting and reading a newspaper.

I didn’t want to keep staring, but once I had noticed him, it was hard not to. The angled curve of his chin had a five o’clock shadow just gracing the tanned skin, which he rubbed with a calloused hand as he turned the page of the newspaper. His blue eyes looked mysterious and haunted, and lay beneath a strong brow, which was creased with his deep concentration. His short, dark hair was cut in a sensible way, and he was biting the soft pink hue of his bottom lip as he read the paper. All in all, he was the most attractive man that I’d ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on, and my eyes, devious traitors that they were, wouldn’t stop from stealing glances at him every chance that they could.

The last time that I looked up, right before the trolley stopped at the gate that I needed to get off at, I found that those incredible blue eyes happened to meet mine. He was staring at me. The realization made me blush, and fumble with the handle of my suitcase as the trolley lurched to a stop, where the baggage abruptly fell over. I reached down to grab it, but before I could, I felt another hand reach for it as well.

“Please, allow me.”

The man’s voice was just as attractive as the rest of him, gravely and somehow soft at the same time. It couldn’t have been nicer if he’d sat in front of a mirror and practiced it. I gave him a smile of thanks and backed off, letting him pick up the suitcase for me, aware of the fact that his muscles picked up the case a lot easier than I would have been able to.

“Is this your first trip to Brazil?” He asked conversationally, as we walked from the seats of the trolley to the line that had already formed for boarding the flight. There weren’t that many passengers in front of us, but enough that we had the time to get out our identification and tickets to show to the gate guard.

“Yes, actually.” Something about the man made me almost nervous. Perhaps it was just his good looks, or the fact that I didn’t hardly know him, and no matter how good looking he was, it wasn’t exactly sensible to go out giving your personal information to strangers.

“Business or pleasure?” He asked. Before I could answer, he gave his passport and ticket to the woman at the counter, who scanned it with a bored expression before waving him forward.

Instead of moving on, however, he waited for me, making it look like just standing there should have landed him a spot in a magazine. Finally, he returned the baggage to my outstretched hand as I passed through the security checkpoint and entered the tunnel that connected to the plane. It was almost too easy to fall into step with him, although his stride was much longer than mine.

“A little bit of both,” I said finally, aware that I still hadn’t answered his question and that he was still waiting for one expectantly.

“Same here.” His smile made me feel like a school girl with a crush. I wondered if he knew what kind of effect he had on people, or if he was genuinely a good natured person that was completely unaware of what his smile could do to a woman. Butterflies filled up my stomach, a sensation that I hadn’t felt, or rather hadn’t allowed myself to feel, for a very long time.

We discovered on the plane that we had conjoining seats, coincidence of all coincidences, so we were allowed to continue our conversation as the other seats filled with people.

His name was Charles Reid, he was in his mid-thirties, and he enjoyed reading and playing softball in an adult league. He admitted to me halfway through the flight, and a quarter the way through a glass of scotch, that he also enjoyed watching HGTV, the home and garden channel, on slow days when he had no work to do.

“It’s my guilty pleasure,” he said shrugging and taking another sip of his glass. I couldn’t keep myself from laughing just a little at the fact that the man’s guilty pleasure involved watching people renovate houses and design rooms. It hardly seemed the kind of skeleton that most people had in their closet.

“Everyone has a guilty pleasure,” I told him, voicing my thoughts, unable to wipe the smile from my face, “but I don’t think you have to worry about yours making headline news.”

“All right then,” he said, leaning a little closer to me in his seat. I took in a deep breath at the unexpected movement.

“All right,” he said again, clearly aware of the sudden heat between us as he backed off a little, “then what’s yours?”

“My guilty pleasure?” I asked. My voice sounded breathless, like I’d just run a marathon. All from one small movement on his part. His blue eyes searched mine for a moment, like they were penetrating me, seeing right down to my soul.

“I don’t have one.” I said.

“You just said that everyone has one,” he reminded me, tapping his head as if to say the thought had come out of his own head instead of mine.

“Well, most of the general population does.” I couldn’t stop my face from turning a little red.

“Aha!” He exclaimed loudly, pointing his hand in my direction.

The man on the other side of me looked at the two of us like we had lost our minds. We both gave a sheepish little grin at him and then turned back to each other.

“Tell me what it is,” he demanded, more quietly this time, but still just as insistent. “I told you mine.”

“Fine.” There really was no arguing with him when he wanted something. Even in the short time I had known Charles Reid, I could already discern that.

“Sometimes, sometimes, mind you, when I’ve had an awful day, or am just in the mood for it…I…I listen to bluegrass.”

I expected him to wrinkle his nose, or to laugh, but he just kind of made a face and said, “I didn’t expect you to be a banjo picking type girl.”

The fact that he even knew what it was astonished me. Most people didn’t listen to bluegrass, much less know what kind of instruments played a part in it. “You listen to that kind of music?”

“I travel a lot. Hear a lot of different genres of music,” he told me. It seemed that the longer he spoke, the bluer and deeper his eyes got, like they were a deep pool of water threatening to suck me in. How was that possible?

“Mmmm-hmm.” I said, nodding, and almost losing track of what he was saying.

The rest of the long flight was spent talking about our different various likes and dislikes of food, movies, music and everything in between. I knew different odds and ends about Charles, or as he finally asked me to call him, Charlie, but I couldn’t tell you where the man had lived, or what he did for a living. It was strange, knowing a person so well and so quickly, and yet, not really knowing them at all.

It seemed almost too quickly that the captain was speaking to us, telling us that we would be landing shortly. We had talked for five hours, not even noticing that the time was passing by as quickly as the ground beneath us. It had been nice, pleasant. Not like the weather in Florida when we landed.

Even though we weren’t off the plane yet, I could already practically feel the moisture and heat of the coastal state, and I cringed, thinking of the mosquitoes and other creatures out there that were practically dying to get a hold of a tasty thing like me.

“I hate swamps,” I said, whining slightly. “They really aren’t my thing.”

“Have you ever actually been to Florida before?” He asked me, raising his eyebrows and grabbing both of our luggage cases from the compartment overhead. He sat them down on the floor, allowing me a moment to grab it before heading down the small aisle.

“No, but I’ve been to Louisiana once. Kind of the same thing, right? Mosquitoes, muggy weather, heat?”

He shook his head sadly, and even though I couldn’t see his face right at that moment, I could imagine the pitiful and sarcastic look he was making. “You poor, misguided creature. You have much to learn.”

“As long as it involves me learning from the confines of this airport…” I muttered under my breath.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to observe the wonders, or lack thereof, that Florida offered. It looked like the layover wouldn’t be the two hours that the flight had originally promised. The airport traffic had been held at a standstill until some impending, doomsday thunderstorm passed over, which we were informed could be anywhere from three hours to ten. The rain clouds around the terminal seemed dark and threatening, ominously laughing at our bad fortune.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” The statement was more to myself than anyone else, but Charlie, who had been standing next to me, hearing the same information that I had, simply rolled his eyes.

“You’re such a drama queen. At least they’re putting you up in a hotel for the night.” His words were teasing, not harsh, but I still smacked him on the arm for it. Like we were old friends. It was strange how talking to someone for a few hours could make a difference.

They were putting us, and the rest of the people who were still trudging on to Brazil in a hotel that was right next to the airport. The deluge of rain nearly drowned us all as we ran, suitcases in hand, from one building to the next, finding our safe and warm place to spend the night.

Chapter Five

When we finally got to the hotel, they had dry warm towels waiting at the front door, maids and doormen offering any kind of service that they could, trying to up-sell the moment we walked through the door.

“Talk about service,” Charlie said, grabbing two towels, one for himself and one for me, and telling the maid thanks. I almost didn’t see him reach into his pocket to give her a wadded up bill. A tip. The man really couldn’t be any more perfect if he tried.

“I wish that it wasn’t raining in the first place,” I said, observing the downpour and lightening outside, trying to distract myself from thoughts that I shouldn’t be having in the first place.

“You do know that the rainforest is one of the wettest and warmest places on earth?” He asked, his voice sounding disbelieving. The soft, low words made my mind drift to other places, other things that could be warm and wet with a little attention.

Good Lord. It was like being around this man had turned some kind of switch on inside of me.

“You’d better get used to it for the duration of your stay.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked. I was so busy trying not to think about the images that had just been flashing through my mind of he and I, in a much darker room, doing certain unnamable things, that I hadn’t been paying attention to what he’d been saying.

“I said, you’d better get used to the weather if you’re going to be staying in the rainforest.” He waved his hand in front of my face, like I wasn’t there.

“You have a fair point,” I grumbled, slapping his hand away from my face. “I’m just used to nicer weather, I guess.”

“Well, are you used to a nice dinner?” He asked, his lips cracking into yet another smile. “Because I guarantee, you haven’t lived until you’ve had some of the etouffee that they serve in Florida. And the shrimp are to die for.”

“Charlie Reid, are you asking me out to dinner?” I said, acting shocked and affronted, when inside I wished that he had been serious, instead of just probably suggesting something that I should try.

“I am.” All the joking manner that we had shared during the trip seemed to fade away in that moment of admission. My pulse throbbed, its pace picking up a little quicker than was usual for me.

“Oh,” I responded quietly. “Then…yes. I would love to have dinner with you.”

His face lit up when I answered him, positively beaming with radiance. “Great. I’d suggest that we go to this little place downtown…but because of the weather, we might have to settle for the hotel bar.”

“That’s fine with me.” My stomach growled, reminding me that I hadn’t eaten most of the day. “I’m starving.”

“Then I’ll meet you in the hotel bar in about half an hour?” He asked.

“Sounds great.” It would give me time to get cleaned up, readjust my makeup, and get out of the clothes that I’d been sitting in on the plane.

As I unpacked in my room, I took the time to shave my legs and put on some nice undergarments. A girl always felt more confident when she had things like that at her disposal. A nice simple black dress, with just the slightest plunge of a neckline, and a set of heals rounded off my attire for the evening.

When I went down to the bar, it didn’t take me long to find Charlie sitting at a table in the corner. He’d changed from his T-shirt and khakis into a pressed button down shirt and slacks, appropriate for dinner. His eyes lit up as they met mine.

“You look beautiful,” he said, standing and holding out a chair for me.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said, pulling my dress up a little so it wouldn’t catch, and sitting down in the chair anyway. He helped me scoot it forward so that I was level with the table.

“I don’t mind. In my house, you showed manners for a lady.”

“In that case,” I said softly, staring into his beautiful blue spheres once more, “carry on”.

It was a beautiful start to a lovely dinner. As he had promised, the etouffee, which I wasn’t looking forward to trying, was delicious, despite its off-putting color, and the shrimp cocktail that he ordered was excellent. The rest of my meal went just as well, my taste buds unaccustomed to such rich and spicy flavors. The wine that Charlie ordered went perfectly with the meal, squeezing all the flavor out of every ounce of the food and brushing it against my waiting tongue.

All through the meal, what made me feel more flushed than the wine, was the way that he looked at me, or even touched me a few times. His soft hand would reach out to feed me a bite off of his fork, the barest tip of his finger grazing my lip as he did so, and sending a current of electricity running through me. Or the comfortable way he reached out and stroked the length of my bare arm, causing me to shiver unnecessarily in the middle of a heated room. I even caught him looking at me, when he thought that I wasn’t looking.

“This is amazing,” I told him, finishing my last bite of food and dusting the side of my mouth with a napkin. “But I can’t eat another bite.”

“So, no dessert?” He asked. I knew that he meant it harmlessly. That there shouldn’t have been any innuendo behind what he was saying. I told myself that I was being silly, that I was just reading more into it than what he meant. But as I looked over at him, at the hungry way that he was looking at me, his eyes canvassing my body, from the length of my neck, to the glimpse of cleavage that the dress offered, I knew that there was a layered meaning behind his words.

In that moment, I knew that I would not tell him no. The electric tension seemed to intensify between us at that moment, and my body, dormant and unyielding for so long, began to unfurl its tightly closed coils, and release sensations of desire throughout my entire being. I didn’t know the man. But I wanted him, wanted to know him on a deep, intimate level.

We hardly even waited for the waitress to bring the check before allowing ourselves the luxury to step away from the table, and back to his room.

Entering that room, with that intention in both of our hearts and bodies, made us into entirely different people. The presence of calmness and chivalry that seemed to hang around him for the entire time that I’d known him seemed to fade away as our deeper and more primal needs took over.

His lips crashed down hard on mine, controlling, desiring, hungry for more of me to submit to him. He forced my mouth open with his, and ran his probing tongue across my bottom lip, causing me to shiver in his embrace. He took that as a sign to go further, allowing his tongue to dart into my mouth, a twisting and sensual sensation that nearly drove me insane. I could feel the two things combine, creating a dance, each fighting for control over the other. Having any part of him enter me in any way, made me dizzy with desire.

The tension that had been building between us all through dinner, and the attraction that had been sizzling in the air since the very moment that I’d laid eyes on him seemed to finally be coming to a head.

He pushed me roughly against the soft fabric of the bed, causing my body to arch slightly in response. In moments he was upon me, his lips once more hunting hungrily for my mouth and body. He buried his hands in my hair, pulling me closer, as if he truly couldn’t get enough of me. Our bodies melded together as we lay together, his hands skimming my body teasingly. I could hardly breathe from the pleasure of it all. All I could feel was him. Him pressed against me, sending shivers of pleasure down my spine, and making me feel warm sensations that I hadn’t felt stirring for a very long time.

His hands became rougher with me as he helped me shed the thin clothing that separated us. The clinging black gown was peeled away from me, revealing my naked body, only covered by the thinnest scraps of material.

Then, after another moment he gathered the material underneath his large hands and gently slipped the silky thong and bra off of my body, throwing them into the corner.

In hindsight, it was a good decision to add that extra layer of seduction. I hadn’t known for sure that this is where I would end up after dinner, but if I was honest, a part of me had hoped. It was entirely wrong to want to be with someone this much, to want to be with him when I didn’t even know him, but in that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to believe it was really wrong. His gaze upon me, the heat that stemmed from his body and latched itself onto mine, told me that this was exactly right.

I closed my eyes as his hands fondled my breasts, playing with them like they were his personal playground. He showed no shame in exploring my body, and I wanted to give him every part of me. If he wanted to examine me, to make me wait, then I would enjoy that torture gladly. Any time his hand touched me, I nearly went through the roof; whether that was an attribute to his skillful touch or the fact that I hadn’t been with someone in a long time was still debatable. Something in my subconscious hinted at the former. Even when I had been with others, no one had ever made me feel like this.

After the beginning, every one of his movements was without waste, perfectly engineered to bring us closer together in our moment of need. He stripped himself of his own clothing, baring his body to my desiring eyes. I could hardly take him all in. There was so much of him, all angles, hard muscles, and smooth skin.

His manhood protruded out proudly, standing straight at attention, and waiting for my affections.

I toyed with the hardness of his shaft, taking in the length and width of him onto my tongue. I knew the sexual aura that steamed from him had to come from the fact that he knew that this part of him was something women couldn’t resist. He knew that his equipment was more than adequate to make any women happy.

I couldn’t stand to not have him inside of me for a second longer.

He retracted from my mouth, and then pushed into my sex, with my unspoken permission. His manhood going in deep, only to pull back again, leaving me feeling desperately empty. That first push, that pressure, had been so intense that I thought I literally might shatter. Its absence created a bigger hole inside of me, one that I was desperate to have him fill. Then, mercifully, his shaft dived into my silky folds once more, both of us craving the other’s touch through a haze of desire.

His immense strength captured me time and time again, between the powerful force of his shaft, and the toned muscles in his arms, and the tightness with which he held me. I could never doubt that this was a man who knew what he was doing, knew how to perfectly pleasure a woman. I wasn’t a one night stand kind of woman, by any means, but for this man, in this moment, I could throw all of that away. I could let it all go.

My immediate and sudden attraction to him was something that thrilled and scared me. The fact that we were making love after having only known each other for a few hours, perfect strangers as it were, only added to the natural high that I was on. I didn’t care that this man, this heart-breakingly handsome man, had in one short night turned me into the kind of woman that had sex outside of a committed relationship. How could I worry about that, when throes of passion kept tugging me under, demanding my attention?

Without warning, he scooped me up, holding me even tighter against him with new position, making me sigh slightly as his shaft shifted inside of me. I watched in awe, unaware that my body could even bend so limberly, as he took my legs and spread them wide apart, my delicate ankles next to his hardened shoulders, his dark, tanned skin matching perfectly against my peaches and cream complexion.

He raised my limbs and twisted them in such a way that made me grit my teeth from the sensation. The pleasure was almost more than I could bear to have contained inside of me. Having him pounding away into my core, his shaft rubbing relentlessly against my heat soaked walls, made me feel as if I could come at any moment. I had never had sex this way before, feeling as though I were on the verge of my climax almost the entire time. It was breathtaking. There was no other word for the sensation of the two of us colliding together in this primal, seductive dance of love making.

He drew out slowly, alternating between watching me and watching his shaft enter me. The slow movement was agony to my waiting body, to my core which craved him so desperately. I could feel each throb of his member, each pull against my walls as he pushed in deeper and deeper each time. Every thrust got a little harder, a little faster, gradually building up speed and stamina once more. With each consecutive thrust, I couldn’t contain the little gasp of pleasure that left me. A forceful exhale that I could not keep in no matter how hard I tried.

Sweat began to bead on his perfect brow, his face determined and concentrated, chasing his own orgasm as thoroughly as he was satisfying my own needs. His mouth fell open slightly and his eyes closed, his body reaching the point where it needed to experience the sudden and swift moment of release. I couldn’t help but watch and enjoy myself with this man who’d become my sudden and unexpected lover. His face was more attractive than any Hollywood star, his body better than any athlete. His entire appearance was geared to operate on a level of seducing women, and I had to admit, he gave me one hell of a ride.

I finally allowed myself a release, a low, throaty moan coming out of the back of my throat as I felt my core clench, contracting with my orgasm. Again and again it happened, until my body was wracked with it, and I felt so happy from the relief of tension that had been building inside of me for far too long.

Charlie was breathing heavily next to me. I could feel the warmth of his fevered skin, hot and tight after the act of lovemaking, his heart beat pacing rapidly at first, but with every breath, slowing down. I still couldn’t bring myself to feel what I’d done was wrong. He laid next to me, his movements becoming stiller, until finally I could tell that he’d fallen asleep. I then realized that I had never felt this safe, and happy.

To be continued…

Thank you for reading!

Please visit Amaz0n to view the next books in this series.

Unwelcome Reunion

by

Gloria Bryant

Copyright © 2014 by Gloria Bryant

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Unwelcome Reunion 1, 2 & 3 (Box Set)

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Chapter One

When Sarah got the invitation, she tossed it in the trash. Five years after her high school graduation, she wanted to forget it.

High school did not have pleasant memories for her. If there’d been a category for it, she would have been voted “the most likely to be overlooked,” or something like that. If, that is, the members of her class had remembered her name long enough to put it on the ballot. Graduation was just the culmination of four years of misery. Of course, she qualified the statement, her academic success hadn’t been a misery, just the cause of misery. People who come in at the top of their class but have nothing else going for them have to endure a certain amount of revenge, and in the absence of any retaliation, the revenge tends to be continual and never ending. There had been a lot that people could make fun of – her weight, her appearance, her clothes, her total lack of clever repartee – all were grist to the revenge mill. The students at St. Andrew’s Secondary School might call themselves “Saints” but they weren’t. In fact, since they almost all belonged to the select community of expatriates in Malawi, and therefore, rich, pampered, and brought up to treat those they considered “lesser beings” like their Malawian servants with discourtesy and disdain, they were less like saints than the average human.

Sarah was white, and so technically one of them, but she wasn’t rich, at least by their standards, certainly hadn’t been pampered, and had been brought up to treat everyone, no matter what their color, with respect and courtesy. That, in itself, was resented because of the secret shame the other students felt for their behavior. Her missionary parents, the Allens, had been long on principle but chronically short of money and for both reasons didn’t belong to the expatriate club or associate with the third generation settlers, who called themselves “Nyasalanders.” Sarah’s clothes had been chosen from charity bundles, so by their nature were unfashionable even when they were good quality. So she really had nothing going for her socially, however she excelled academically.

No, she had no particular reason to want to revisit St. Andrew’s five years after graduation. She still had nothing much going for her, though she had earned her BA in pharmacy and was working on her Pharmacist’s License. That was not going to garner any admiration at a reunion, except perhaps from a teacher or two. Jealousy, maybe. Most ex-Saints ended their academic career at graduation. They didn’t need further education to fit into the cushy jobs waiting for them in family businesses and tea estates. Most of them, in fact, didn’t need to work for a living, which was very comfortable physically, but rather uncomfortable emotionally. If they felt generally useless, it was because they were, and could rely only on the artificial status of wealth for a sense of importance. Sarah had a good job at The Malawi Pharmacy. She had started there soon after her graduation, having to work to get enough money for further studies. Her employers found her honest and reliable, but her generally drab appearance and less than appealing way of dealing with customers kept them from promoting her or increasing her salary beyond the across-the-board cost of living increases. Instead, they put her in charge of stores, which kept her mostly behind the scenes.

No, going back was masochistic. She’d been there, done that, and didn’t want to do it again.

But then she remembered that Hunter would be there. That changed her mind completely, and she retrieved the invitation from the wastebasket. Hunter! In the five years since Hunter had rejected her love, or more accurately ignored it, she had convinced herself that when he matured, he would realize what he had missed.

Despite herself, she let the humiliating memory invade her mind. Hunter! Star athlete and champion actor, he had looked the part with compelling good looks – curly blonde hair and the face and body of a COSMOPOLIOTAN model. Naturally, he had always been surrounded by a bevy of adoring female fans, a significant proportion of whom were willing to put out to snag him. He strode the corridors of the school like a colossus, and was no less prominent at the club, where Sarah couldn’t go. She had been forced to adore him from afar, skulking in the bushes, both real and figuratively. And though he never noticed, his bevy of worshipers did, and they didn’t fail to draw blood with their comments. She had schemed and plotted to get him alone so he would have to notice her, but when she did, a moment when he was studying in the library, and had sat beside him with what she was sure was her most charming smile and greeted him with a seductive, “Hello Hunter!” he’d indeed noticed her long enough to say, “Go away! I’m busy,” brushing her aside as casually as he would have swatted a fly. She kept her tears in as long as it took her to rush to the girls’ toilet, where she’d sobbed for what seemed like an hour, stopping only when a pair of the worshippers came in, chattering and giggling. Fortunately, they hadn’t seen her disgrace, nor really noticed her in the toilet, so she felt she’d escaped further humiliation unless Hunter told anyone, which apparently he didn’t. Though she was relieved, she also figured that he hadn’t really noticed her at all, which was devastating.

Yes! He would be there, and things would be different this time. Surely, he would have matured by now. She would go, and when she found him, would walk up with a smile, and in a flash, he would know what a beautiful person there was under the plain exterior and how lucky he was that she was his for the asking.

Never mind that nothing much concerning her appearance and condition had changed in 5 years. She was a bit heavier, her hair still the same mud brown and still unbecomingly long and unkempt. Though she had enough money from her job to dress more fashionably, she saw no reason to waste money on that, and still bought her clothes 2nd hand, unfortunately attracted to bright colors that made her look even more sallow than she was.

But she knew that Hunter would see her differently than he had before, and would be drawn to her inner beauty.

She imagined the meeting.

“Hello Hunter!”

“Hell-o, Sarah, Where’ve you been? I never see you at the club.”

“I’ve been around.”

“I’ve really missed you. What’ve you been doing since graduating?”

“Well, getting my degree, for one thing.”

“Really? That’s cool! What in?”

“Pharmacy. Actually, I’m working on my Pharmacist’s License now.”

“That’s wonderful! But you always were brainy. I always wondered how one person could be so smart and so nice at the same time.”

“Really? I thought you barely knew I existed.”

“I was shy, that’s all, afraid someone like you would give me the cold shoulder.”

“I never would’ve.”

“Oh? Well, what about now? I’ve been fantasizing about you for five years, do y’know that? Can we do something about that?”

“What, here?”

“Sure. Why not? Remember the window seat behind those curtains? If you slip in, I’ll follow in a few moments when nobody’s looking.”

Sarah broke off the reverie. That’s ridiculous! But after that, she couldn’t resist going back to it.

Her heart was pounding when Hunter pushed through the curtains. He pushed her back on the cushion, and slipped her blouse off her shoulders. Slipping his hand behind her, he undid her bra. Waves of ecstasy flowed through her as her nipples swelled and stiffened. “Don’t stop, Hunter! You’ve no idea how I’ve longed for this moment.” But actually, she was hungry for him to hurry on to the next step. The whole area between her legs was dripping and she could feel it throbbing.

After a minute or two, Hunter reached under her skirt and ripped off her panties. His hands caressed her sex until it was all she could do not to scream. Then he unzipped his trousers, revealing his magnificent erect manhood.

“Oh, Hunter!”

Without another moment’s hesitation, he plunged into her, and after a sharp moment of pain, she felt as if her whole being was filled with it, but was willing for anything to happen so long as he stayed inside her. But as it was, he very gently rocked and the bells began to ring and the birds to sing, the lightning to flash and the thunder to roar, all in a magnificent crescendo until the fireworks exploded, showering them with multi-colored stars, and then for two seconds she was blind, deaf and dumb. He was heavy on her body, panting in her ear and said in a whisper that sent shivers down her spine, “My God, Sarah! That was wonderful! It’s never been like that for me before. Was it OK for you?”

“Beautiful,” said Sarah, before she became suddenly aware that she was alone and fully dressed, though dripping with sweat and body fluids. It hadn’t been real. But after a flood of disappointment, she was sure that it could be and would be like that, and knew that nothing could keep her away from the reunion.

Chapter Two

On the night of the reunion, Sarah took pains to look her best. For her, that meant a careful application of lip gloss and mascara, the choice of her most-becoming dress, shaving her legs and wearing the one pair of high-heeled shoes she owned. She also, after some dithering, decided against wearing underwear, in her mind to make things easy later. She arrived early, hoping to catch Hunter as he arrived. First she did a quick survey of the Hall, and was relieved to find that the curtains and the window seat were just as she remembered them. The curtains, however, were opened, so choosing a moment when no one was looking, she drew them closed, setting the scene for the drama she was expecting to take place. Then she loitered around the entrance to the school, pretending to look at the pictures and trophies of sports teams that were displayed there. Several of the girls who had been members of her class walked by her, their conversations becoming whispers punctuated by giggles as they passed her.

Only one couple greeted her. They were Stanley and Moira Bandawe. She had been Moira Mposa when they were at school and had married Stanley soon after graduation. The few Malawians who attended St. Andrew’s didn’t associate a lot with the whites, but Stanley had been almost as near the top of the class as Sarah and had attended the church where Sarah’s parents ministered, so knew her before they had turned up at St. Andrew’s together. Knowing her to be friendly and non-racist, he had turned to her as a safe companion with whom he shared the common ground of being thinkers and academic achievers. Moira wasn’t a top class brain, but her father had been Ambassador to the UN for several years, so she’d been to primary school in New York which gave her an academic advantage at St. Andrew’s and also drew her to Sarah, who was American. The three of them had formed a kind of natural clique.

Stanley had gotten a job in Lilongwe soon after graduation, so they hadn’t seen much of each other for a long time, and enjoyed catching up. While they were chatting, Sarah saw Hunter stroll in, but felt unable to be rude to the Bandawes by breaking their conversation off abruptly, so let him pass. The Bandawes, however, sensed that she was no longer fully engaged in the conversation, and with some disappointment soon broke it off themselves. They felt, as they agreed later, that it was just another example of how unviable inter-racial friendships were in Malawi.

As soon as they left, Sarah went looking for Hunter. She soon saw him, but he was surrounded by a cluster of females, which didn’t fit at all with her ideas of how their meeting should take place. She figured that Hunter wouldn’t be free to say how he really felt about her with the others present, let alone make a rendezvous with her behind the curtains. So she skulked around, trying to look occupied, but keeping Hunter in sight. It was almost an hour before she saw her chance and Hunter was alone. She saw that he was heading for another group of friends, though, so she practically ran across the floor to intercept him. “Hell-o Hunter,” she got out rather breathlessly.

“Hello,” he said with a rather bemused expression on his face. “Do I know you?”

“It’s Sarah!”

“Oh yes,” he replied, with an expression that showed he still didn’t have a clue who she was. “Nice to see you.” Then he turned away and carried on where he was headed. Sarah, stunned, just stood there rooted to the ground with her mouth open and watched him go. The group Hunter was approaching had seen it all and were giggling, and when Hunter reached them they told them who she was, and the whole group looked at her and laughed. Sarah, her face scarlet, turned and almost ran out of the hall, managing not to cry until she was safely in her bedroom at home, but then sobbed for a good deal of the night, appalled at how stupid she’d been, just like a silly Mills and Boons heroine. In retrospect, she saw that her daydreams had been entirely the product of wishful thinking. Pathetic! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Finally, as the cocks began to crow, she decided that a life of misery, of being overlooked and insulted, was her inevitable lot, her destiny, and she might as well get used to it. On that note, exhausted, she fell asleep.

The next day, by coincidence – or, as Sarah was convinced in retrospect, God incidence, Sarah was in the Times Bookshop, when a magazine on the rack caught her eye. It was a magazine for teens called, “The Good Life” and was, a typical teen advice magazine. The cover article was entitled, “You Don’t Have to be a Loser!” and looking over it, Sarah thought it was speaking directly to her. So she bought the magazine, hurried home and read it in her bedroom with the door locked. It was, as she had thought, directed at teens in exactly her situation and contained specific instructions on how to get out of it. It told her to take the example of someone who was very popular and make a list of all the things that she thought kept her from being popular. For many of those things, there was a paragraph or two with advice about how to change. It counseled readers to concentrate on the exterior physical things, because if you took care to eliminate them, that would automatically take care of many of the interior problems of personality, because of the improved self-image and self-confidence.

Sarah took every word of the article to heart. It said that you shouldn’t try to change everything at once, but to concentrate on one, or at most two things at a time. After some thought and an analytical look at herself in the mirror decided that she would get her hair styled – that would be easy – and lose weight which would be more difficult. That very day she asked around her friends at work to find a good hairstylist. The barely concealed surprise of her friends, and the covert glances they threw at each other when she asked were confirmation that she’d made the right choice. Obviously her hair had been a topic of conversation, and it couldn’t have been approving, that she was sure of. It didn’t take long for her to discover that there were only 3 hairdressers that did whites’ hair in Blantyre, and there was a general agreement on which was the best, which was, unsurprisingly, the priciest. Money was not a problem; she just hadn’t thought it worth the bother, so she made an appointment immediately. The hairdresser pursed her lips disapprovingly when she saw Sarah, and recommended that she cut her hair to a length that just covered her ears and dye it a shade that was lighter than Sarah’s natural color and adding some tawny streaks to give it life. Sarah asked if she should perm her hair, since she had often wished her hair was curly, but the stylist recommended not. “Straight hair,” she said either combed down or pulled back in a ponytail would minimize her rather pudgy jaw and heavy neck. When Sarah said that she was going to lose weight too, the stylist encouraged her and said, “When you do that, we can look at curls again.

When the stylist was finished she showed Sarah her work in the mirrors and Sarah was delighted. “You know,” said the stylist, “with a little bit of work you could be really beautiful. Why don’t you go around the corner to the beautician’s? I go there myself and she’s really good and not too expensive. She could show you what make up you need. Sarah thanked her and said she would, but she didn’t intend to take the advice; she wasn’t the painted lady type, she thought, and didn’t want to be. When she got home, she discovered that her parents didn’t really approve of the money she had spent, but were nonetheless pleased at her new appearance. At work the next day, her colleagues were so complimentary and excited that it made her day, and even the customers seemed friendlier, possibly because Sarah for the first time in her life felt approval coming her way, so held herself straighter, smiled more often, and talked more easily.

***

That afternoon, she bought all the women’s health and beauty periodicals that The Times Bookstore had, and poured over them. There were dozens of diets described, some very weird, like the one that suggested she eat nothing but grapefruit for six weeks. That one she rejected right away because she didn’t think she’d manage it, and anyway grapefruits were only on sale in Malawi for a short season which had just ended. There was one that advocated a vegan diet for weight loss, and another that insisted that a banana at every meal was magic. In the end, she settled on a low carb diet that was compatible both with food that could be bought in Blantyre and with Sarah’s normal food choices so wouldn’t be too hard to follow. It recommended that she eat as much as she wanted, so long as it was low in carbohydrate: no potatoes, grains or bread but as much meat and fat as she wanted. A lot of vegetables and fruit were forbidden, but a lot weren’t. She’d never eaten much sugar anyway, so giving that up would not be difficult. It also said that she should be very strict for the first three weeks, but could then break the diet occasionally without dire effects. That really appealed to her as she doubted her ability to stick to any diet for a long time. To help her, she found a photo that looked like the girl who she knew was Hunter’s current squeeze and taped it to the fridge with a sign that said, “Who Would YOU prefer?” in large red letters. It helped. Particularly the first few weeks, she very often opened the fridge door and then closed it almost immediately without taking anything out.

The first week, she lost 5 pounds, which seemed miraculous.

All the diets recommended increased exercise. Sarah considered a daily run, and tried it one morning, but after about five minutes saw that it was impossible. Five minutes exhausted her. Maybe later she could do that, when she was fitter. Then she tried walking, but found that it wasn’t hard enough to make her feel it was benefitting her, and anyway, getting to a place where she might enjoy walking, took much time and gas. She considered buying an exercise bike to use at home, but decided instead to join a gym because the initial outlay was less, and she could easily back out if she wanted to. The gym had aerobic exercises classes, and a routine on the weight machines that was set out in a circle, and she found that those suited her. It was very hard in the beginning but it wasn’t long before she began to make progress. She began to feel fitter and have more energy almost immediately encouraged her, and soon she became committed to a weekly routine of an hour a day four days a week.

On the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the diet she lost another 5 pounds, and 15 pounds lighter, she could see and feel the difference. Maybe nobody else would notice, but she did, and she felt good about it. By the end of the 3rd week, she had lost another 5 pounds and people began to notice. At first they were inclined to ask her if she was OK, but assured that her weight loss was intentional, were complimentary.

One effect which she hadn’t anticipated was that she needed new clothes. She went, as she always had, to the 2nd hand store for them. But except for one or two items, found that she wasn’t satisfied anymore with the way they looked. Her perusal of the women’s magazines had changed her ideas, so for the first time in her life bought some new ones. She felt mildly guilty, but had gradually come to realize that though some people might notice a girl’s inner beauty, most wouldn’t – at least unless they got to know her better than most people got to know unattractive girls. By coincidence, just at the moment when adjusting her wardrobe became necessary, she came across an article that talked about buying clothes that went with your coloring. She’d always liked bright jewel colors, but when she took the test in the article, it said that as she was an “Autumn” type she’d look better in earth tones. So she decided to try that and found by trying on things and taking a good luck at her appearance in them that it was actually true. So instead of scarlet and purple, she searched for beige and rust.

The result of all this was that in six months she was hardly recognizable. A pudgy drab, rather unkempt woman who didn’t know how to dress, had become a moderately attractive athletic woman.

She found that those she knew as friends became better friends, and some who hadn’t been friends became ones. She became used to being complimented on how she looked, especially by her fellow workers at the pharmacy who had come to know her well enough to like her no matter what she looked like. Several times when one of the girls at St. Andrew’s who had laughed at her, came into the shop, they didn’t know who she was at first, and did a surprised double take when they recognized her when she greeted them by name, something she would never have done before, but rather delighted in doing so now. All in all the world seemed a better place than it had. And she began to wish she would run into Hunter, who would surely now not give her the cold shoulder, but it seemed he was out of Blantyre.

There were several people whom she met regularly at the gym with whom she became quite friendly. One of them was a quiet young man named Eric with whom she seemed to have a lot in common. When she mentioned that she was about to finish the course work for her Pharmacy license, he admitted that though he was working as an ad writer for a local advertising agency, he had his Phd in chemistry. When Sarah asked him why on earth he wasn’t using it, he said that he’d grown so sick of it by the time he finished his degree that he never wanted to see another test tube. He told her it had almost been a year since and he was beginning to think he was ready to go back. He figured that he could easily get a job at the University of Malawi in Zomba, and was trying to get up the energy to apply.

He liked to cook, and began regularly to invite Sarah over to his apartment for a meal, after which they watched classical movies on DVDs or talked about a book they had both read. Although from a Zomba planter’s family, he shared Sarah’s distaste at the way most expatriates spoke of and treated blacks, which, together with their level of education, meant that they were isolated, and not really at home in Malawi’s expatriate community. To have serious conversations with someone with whom they shared so much common ground was a delight for both of them. Gradually they began to see quite a lot of each other and formed a warm relationship which nurtured both, increasing their self-confidence and improving their opinion of life in general. After two years, he had not made any sexual advances towards her, about which she was somewhat ambivalent. Not that she wanted to have sex with him, as she was still carrying a torch for Hunter, but she began to wonder if she was still not attractive enough to make men want to have sex with her. But being best friends was satisfying, especially as she had never had a best friend since primary school.

One of their common interests was Mt. Mulanje, the huge mountain range that dominated South-eastern Malawi, towering 5,000 ft over the surrounding plain, shooting up over half of that almost vertically. It had been a granite intrusion from which the surrounding softer rock had been eroded away, so it presented smooth granite cliffs, so there was no easy way to get on top, what trails there were, being little more than endless staircases. Once the plateau level was reached, there was lovely rolling grassland interspersed with a number of bare rocky peaks and deeply cut water courses, most of which ended abruptly in a 2,000 or 3,000 ft. waterfall. A number of forestry huts provided accommodation, but otherwise there was no development, and as relatively few tourists were intrepid enough to make it to the top, one was more often alone in a pristine African environment with stunning views in every direction. All supplies except firewood and water had to be carried up, but fortunately there were always porters available, and as there were very few jobs in the Mulanje area, one could feel virtuous offering jobs and at the same time avoiding the labor. The porters, in superb condition, could run up to the huts and back down again in half a day, and showed every sign of enjoying it.

Even Eric and Sarah, who were in very good condition from their gym schedule found the climb to the top challenging and whenever they could, spent 2 or 3 nights there before descending. The first time they went up, they chose the path from Likhubula to Chambe as being the least difficult. Nevertheless, Sarah barely made it to the top and was barely conscious when she got there. Upon reaching the hut, she fell instantly asleep on the bed and had to be roused at 7:30 to eat the dinner Eric had cooked for them. By the fourth trip, she was able to take the Lion’s Head path, probably the most difficult in her stride easily.

Aside from the blue monkeys and an occasional leopard, there was little game, but there were 50 or 60 species of birds, including the rare blue swallow and black eagle and also several species endemic to the mountain. It was natural for regular climbers to become keen birdwatchers, and Eric and Sarah did. In the rainy season, there were myriads of wildflowers, including a number of spectacular ground orchids, and Eric and Sarah set out to become expert in those too, and Sarah, a keen photographer compiled an impressive collection of photos, which she posted on the net.

They were never happier than when on Mulanje. Shared activity is almost as powerful creator of emotional bonds as sex, and they became very close. And on the long evenings in front of the fire, they shared themselves more openly with each other than they had ever done with anybody else. They were both wounded individuals, estranged from normal society. Eric, though physically fit, had never been interested in sports, and though he sometimes shared with school friends fictitious stories of sexual adventures, had never had any real ones, and wasn’t bothered about that. Sarah, of course, was very bothered that she had never managed to snag Hunter; it was like a continual crick in her side, and the original reason for her wanting to remake herself, though she never fully revealed that to Eric. They came to love one another as friends, though they insisted that they were not “in love” and after two years had never become lovers.

Chapter Three

About three years after they met, their relationship took a dramatic turn suddenly when Sarah picked up the annual Saints Newsletter at the Post Office. It carried the announcement of Hunter’s marriage to one of her classmates, Sylvia Enderley, a member of the Thyolo tea planter community. When Sarah read the news, it was like a thunderbolt. She felt as if someone had thrown a bucket of ice water over her, and couldn’t gather her thoughts about it together at all. Hunter couldn’t be married. He couldn’t! He was going to come to his senses and marry her. She had been as sure of that as she was sure of the sun rising every day. In a single moment, her world had been shattered into a thousand pieces. She just couldn’t take it in. For him to marry that stupid shallow bitch was just not believable! Granted that she was very attractive, but underneath the surface she was interested in only one thing. Herself. What was he thinking of? It had to be a joke. That was it. Someone had put it in the Newsletter as a prank. But even as she thought it, she knew it wasn’t true.

She burst into tears right there in front of the Post Office where she had collected her mail and sobbed entirely oblivious to the amused or pitying looks of passers-by. Eventually, however her anguish was replaced by anger. How could he do that to her! After all that she had done for him – the dieting, the exercise, the money she’d spent on clothes! After all that, how had he dared to marry that idiot? She dearly wished she could abuse him physically, kick him in the balls or hit him with a cricket bat.

She let her imagination roam, and briefly it gave her some satisfaction, but since he wasn’t there to abuse physically, she began to psychologically abuse herself instead. What an idiot she’d been! What a mindless, spineless dolt! Most of all, what had possessed her to keep her precious virginity, saving it for an asshole with an I.Q. of a baboon, a macho cretin who was too gross to appreciate her? How could she have been so totally inane, or was it insane! She thought of all the times she and Eric had shared a room on Mulanje. What a waste! What a lost opportunity! All those romantic nights in the moonlight miles from anyone else! What delights they could have shared! She had fantasized just such romantic interludes with Hunter! What a loss!

Well, that was something she could fix right away! She ran to her car, dived inside, slammed it into gear, and headed out into traffic, nearly ramming a city bus. By the time she reached Eric’s flat she was a little calmer, but not enough to consider that Eric might have his own ideas on the subject.

When he got to Eric’s she found him cooking dinner. Without even greeting him, she practically shouted, “Do me! Do me now!

Shocked out of his wits, Eric asked, “What on earth are you talking about? “

“I’m talking about sex. I want you to screw me! You know what that is!”

“Well, of course! But why?”

“Don’t ask me why! I’ll tell you why later. Right now, I want you to do it!” And suiting her actions to her words, she began to strip off her clothes, scattering them around the room, and was soon naked.

“But I don’t have any condoms.”

“I don’t care about condoms, Eric. I just want to have sex.”

Eric’s mind was racing. He didn’t want to have sex with Sarah, at least not just now and not in a frenzy. On one hand he loved her. She was his best buddy, and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. On the other hand, he was practically a virgin and she was a virgin and it was bound to be a disaster. But, it would be a disaster if he didn’t. He figured he had no choice, but with grave foreboding he said, “OK, Sarah, I will, but give me a minute to turn off the stove.” He was glad he’d had the presence to do that, at least. However disastrous the sex was going to be, it would be more disastrous with a stew burning to a crisp on the stove.

With a desperate thought that she might change her mind, he moved slowly to turn off the burners and remove his apron. He walked into the bedroom to find her splayed out supine on the bed, legs akimbo, arms stretched out to him. No chance of her changing her mind, that was clear. He unbuttoned his shirt and began to fold it.

“For God’s sake, Eric. “Hurry up!”

“Ok, Sarah, Just give me time to get my jeans off.”

“Don’t bother! Just unzip them and come here.”

He made one last attempt at doing the thing with whatever grace might be possible. “What’s the hurry, Sarah?”

“I don’t know. I just know that if I don’t do it right now, I’m going to start screaming!”

Wanting to take no chances of that happening, Eric unzipped his jeans and moved to lie down beside her. But before he was fully down, she threw her leg over him and straddling him, took his manhood out of his Y-fronts – a task that was more awkward than she expected, and began to pump it frantically. For a terrible moment there seemed to be no response, but Eric closed his eyes, and recalled the sex scene from “The Piano” which they had seen just the night before, and willed himself into an erection, or at least enough of one so that she could lower herself on to it successfully. Fortunately for them both, her hymen ruptured easily with only a momentary prick of pain. From then on, thanks, perhaps to his youth and chronically horny state, his natural responses took over, and within a few moments he came, and then deflating rapidly, so that she was unable to keep him in her any longer.

Sarah burst into tears. “That isn’t the way I imagined it. It wasn’t beautiful like I imagined it. It wasn’t a glorious act of love. It was horrid!” She lifted herself off him and caught a glimpse of his deflated manhood. “I’m so sorry, Eric. I’m, sorry! What a useless inadequate excuse for a woman I am. I can’t do anything right. I’ll go away now. If you ever want to see me again, give me a call.”

Eric, filled with relief that it hadn’t been as bad as he feared it might be, and chuffed that he’d been able to perform, was now in his element. He grabbed her arm before she could get off the bed and pulled her back next to him. He put his arms around her and comforted her as he had many times before, assuring her that she was a wonderful woman, both beautiful and talented. He agreed that the sex hadn’t been first rate, but he argued that first sex hardly ever was, despite what the romances said.

And then he got the idea that was to save their relationship. “Listen, what we need to do is learn how to have sex. I’ll buy a sex manual, and we can read it together and put it into practice. I know there are ones that explain everything. Then with a lot of good sex under our belts, so to speak…” Realizing his unintended pun, he began to laugh, and soon she saw the joke and they were laughing hysterically together. When he could go on, he said, “We can make this nothing but a funny memory.”

It wasn’t until the dinner had been fully cooked and eaten that Sarah, encouraged by half a bottle of pinot noir, got up the courage to tell him why she’d raped him, which she insisted over his protests she had done. Whatever Eric may have thought of her story, he accepted it with every sign of understanding. “Ah,” he said, “I’ve always suspected that there was something important in your life that you weren’t telling me. Now I know what it was.”

“I’m sorry, Eric. I’m afraid I used you inexcusably.”

“Oh no, it was entirely excusable. Entirely! I’m glad I was around to be used. That’s what friends do. They use each other without hard feelings. But I’m glad you can put it all behind you now that what you wanted isn’t going to happen. It’s a blessing in disguise.”

“I think I can, but it may take some time. He’s been a major motivating force in my life for a long time, and right now the disguise is pretty good. “

“Yeah, I understand that. Maybe our sex classes will help.”

“I’m sure they will.” Sarah said with a sly smile. Soon after dinner, Sarah left. And after a hot bath with chamomile for soothing aromatherapy, she mulled over the whole incident. She was momentarily tempted by the idea that she should give up on all her self-improvement initiatives, since the object of them no longer existed. What difference, after all, did it make now? But reason soon asserted itself as she realized that though they had failed in their prime objective, they had been very valuable to her in many ways. She liked looking better and feeling physically fit; she felt much happier about herself than she had, and certainly didn’t want to give that up. She cringed when she thought about what had gone on in Eric’s bed, but was comforted by his very loving reaction to it. He really was special. With that thought, she fell asleep.

Chapter Four

They both had scruples about promiscuous sex, but after some discussion agreed that what they were going to do was not promiscuous, and though they weren’t married technically, were committed to each other in their own way. This satisfied them both, though Sarah was uncomfortably aware that it would not satisfy her parents.

The first tips in all the books Eric found emphasized the importance of foreplay. That seemed to speak directly to them, telling them a large part of what had gone wrong with their first sex act together. They read the practical suggestions of how to conduct foreplay, itself proved to be a sort of foreplay, and by the time they began to actually experiment with it, they were thoroughly aroused. None the less, they persisted, lying together on the bed, kissing long and deep, and exploring each other’s bodies with their hands until Eric said, I don’t think I can stand any more of this without exploding.” He grabbed a condom, which he’d had the foresight to have within reach, and frantically smoothed it over his hardening manhood. Even that minor delay was nearly disastrous, and he thrust himself between Sarah’s legs and entered her almost savagely. Fortunately she was entirely ready for this and had, in fact, been about to suggest it. Eric came almost at once, leaving Sarah behind. But keen to make this experience satisfying for her, he caressed her labia gently with his hand and then moved tentatively to the knob he knew should lie between them. He was frightened of hurting her, so was very gentle, using a slow circular movement with a single finger, which turned out to be exactly the right thing, and she was soon breathing very heavily and finally gave a gasp of pleasure as thrilling waves broke and swept through her body. “Oh, yes,” she murmured, “that’s exactly what I imagined it would be. Heavenly.”

They lay spooned together for some time, but it didn’t take Eric very long to be ready for a second lesson. Turning Sarah on her back, he began stroking her breast, and when her nipples began to swell, took them between his teeth and sucked. “Oh, yes!” she said, “that’s wonderful.” And she put her hands behind his back, caressing it with strokes that led naturally down to his buttocks.

Slowly he moved down her torso, using long circular motions. When he reached her waist, he began stroking her from her armpit to her buttocks. When he reached the latter, she lifted her hips so he could slip his hands underneath and cup her buttocks, which caused her to arch her back. His natural response to that was to lift her up in his hands and kiss her where her legs met – not using his tongue yet; that would come in a later lesson – but blowing gently, which sent her over the moon. “Yes,” she said, “my God, yes!” and spreading her legs as wide as she could, she breathed, “Now hurry!”

Eric, feeling less urgency than before, put on another condom, and as ready as he would ever be, entered her very slowly with multiple pauses which by the time he was fully inside her had her gasping in delight, her thighs and belly shuddering. Still inexperienced, he didn’t know how to delay his own release, but fortunately what he did proved sufficient and they came gloriously and simultaneously.

They hadn’t yet read the bit about the importance of afterplay, but it came naturally, and they lay together some time with mutual caresses and kisses until they were both completely at rest. Eric, typically male, arrived at that state before Sarah did, but his intuition fueled by love kept him from pulling away until she joined him, and for a few minutes, they slept.

When they woke up, they agreed that the lesson had been a great success, and that the memory of their disaster had faded to an amusing memory as they had expected it would, and that they would have another rendezvous as soon as possible.

When they got to their workplaces the next morning, they each met a friend who looked shrewdly at them and exclaimed, “Something wonderful has happened to you! I can see it in your face.” Eric, who rarely shared anything personal with his colleagues, blushed and said, “You’re right.” But refused to elaborate. Sarah blushed too, but was dying to share the experience and described what had happened briefly, and in rather more detail about how she felt about it. The friend who had formed a warm and intimate friendship with her was delighted. “I’m so glad! You’ve been pining inside, no matter how much you’ve changed on the outside. I could tell. But now that’s gone. A new era has opened in your life.”

“You’re right. At least I think you are.”

***

Shortly after Sarah’s confession to Eric she received a promotion. Her employers had been pleasantly surprised at the changes in her appearance and behavior, and were eager to reward her, not only for that but for her impending Pharmacist’s License. They made her manager of the local shop with a handsome raise in salary. To celebrate, she and Eric went out to dinner at The Michiru Room in the Mt. Soche Hotel, Blantyre’s most prestigious and expensive hotel. They made an attractive couple and the pianist played several songs in their honor, earning smiles and a tip. They went full out, starting with a shrimp cocktail, followed by the delicious tilapia that was endemic to Lake Malawi. They finished their meal off with a black forest cheesecake garnished with maraschino cherries and chocolate shavings. To accompany the food they had a celebratory sparkling pink wine, champagne in all but name, and afterwards with coffee, Van der Hum, South Africa’s indigenous tangerine liqueur. They enjoyed it all thoroughly. They hadn’t dined out much, partly because of the expense, but partly because Eric was such a good cook. But they agreed that even Eric would have trouble equaling the meal they’d had that night, and were in a very happy mood when they headed for Eric’s apartment, tacitly agreeing that this was a perfect moment for lesson number two.

The next topic in the book that Eric had actually bought was positions. As they read, they discovered that they had already discovered the missionary position to which they gave full marks, and the woman-on-top position, of which their experience had been unhappy enough that they hesitated to try it again. The next position described in the book was “doggie-style” in which the male entered from behind. They read on enough to discover that anal sex could be done in that position, but agreed that they certainly weren’t ready for that, and doubted that they ever would be. So “doggie-style” was what it would be.

Since the book said that one advantage was that the male’s hands were free for all sorts of play, they decided that Sarah would take on the main foreplay. Sarah was keen because she had felt that she hadn’t really done her share before. Undressing, she ordered Eric to lie on his back while she undressed him and suggested that he tell her what worked and what didn’t. After a moment’s thought, she started by removing his shoes and socks and massaging his feet. She started by running her hands all over each foot and then to stroking the soles of his feet almost roughly with her thumbs. At that Eric started to purr to indicate that he enjoyed it, but when she began to pull at each toe, and run her fingers between them, he couldn’t help giggling because it tickled. “That’s lovely,” he said, “but not particularly sexy. Nevertheless, by the time she finished, his body was awake and super aware.

Next she began to remove his shirt, taking her time, while massaging his chest, taking her lead from what he had done in lesson one. She bit his nipples gently and was mildly surprised to discover that they stiffened just as hers had. “I didn’t know men’s nipples did that.”

“I didn’t either, but if you carry on, I’ll leap up and ravish you without the grace of anymore foreplay.”

Not wanting to end prematurely anything so enjoyable, she switched to kissing whatever bit of him was uncovered as she undid each button. When she got to his belly, she reached under his belt and pulled his shirt out of his pants, taking the opportunity of inserting her hands in his Y-fronts and teasingly touching their contents which were already responding noticeably to her ministry. Then she licked his navel using a circular motion that had him moaning, and moved down, unzipping his trousers and pushing his Y-fronts down tonguing each bit of his groin as she uncovered it. When she reached the base of his manhood, he said rather breathlessly, “I think you’d better stop now lest this end before it should.” Quickly she pulled the rest of his clothes down over his feet, which because of his erection proved slightly more complicated than she had expected. As soon as his legs were free, with all possible speed he slipped from underneath her and mounted her from behind. But wanting to make full use of the advantages the position offered him, with some difficulty, refrained from entering her. Instead he let his manhood rest against her, concentrated on caressing her breasts and gently rubbing her nipples with his fingers while he nuzzled and kissed the nape of her neck. Soon he felt her becoming wet, and knew she was ready to be entered.

“Oh,” she gasped. “That feels like you’re practically pushing through my diaphragm. It’s marvellous.”

“Yes, he said, “it feels like you’ve swallowed me whole! Let’s just stay still and enjoy the feeling. “ So for as long as he could stand it, they remained motionless as the pressure mounted until it became unbearable and he withdrew slightly and thrust, which was all it took for them both to explode in ecstasy. Eric poured his seed into her with thrilling spasm after thrilling spasm. Sarah was amazed that she could actually feel his release inside her, and that increased her pleasure as wave after wave swept through her body, every nerve ending firing until she felt like a roman candle. She cried out and juddered with pleasure. “My God, Eric! My God, Eric!” this is incredible. I don’t want it to ever end!”

It took Eric a few moments to collect himself enough to speak. “Nor do I, Sarah! Nor do I!” But already each wave of pleasure for them both was weaker than the last, until finally the flesh was stronger than the will, and they descended into quiescence, each nerve ending still tingling, spent but intensely peaceful. “That was amazing!” whispered Eric, “Let’s do it again!” But, of course neither was ready to do it again just then, and they were soon asleep in each other’s arms.

Chapter Five

In subsequent rendezvous, they tried a number of different positions, growing gradually more experimental as they gained confidence and experience, and eventually returned to the “woman on top” position in a joyful extravaganza that quite erased their earlier negative experience, but most of the more athletic or contorted ones they found more interesting than overwhelming. They tried a position in which Eric stood while holding on to Sarah, who wrapped her legs around him, but Eric, as fit as he was, found it more a physical exercise than a sexual joy. They turned aside from anything anal, but did find the traditional 69 position with mutual oral sex pleasant, but overall decide that they decided that the commonest positions were commonest for the good reason that they gave the greatest pleasure with the least exertion. Eric found an ad for “The Kama Sutra,” an oriental sex manual that described 49 different positions. But after thinking about it, he figured that at least 24 of the positions must be the same as another 24 except that the fingers were crossed, and didn’t send off for it.

One thing that it took them some weeks to seriously consider was role playing. The book recommended it, but it seemed silly and unnecessary. Eric, however, confessed to having fantasized when he was a teenager about being an estate security guard and being called out on a suspected indecency incident and having a naked and willing householder open the door. “Let’s try playing that out.”

Sarah was willing if a bit skeptical. There were no costume rental shops in Blantyre, but Eric had a friend who was in the Drama Group at the Club and had access to the costume store. So he called him.

“Hi, Shawn, how’re you doing?”

“Hey, Eric, I’m fine but I haven’t seen you for ages. Where’ve you been?”

“Just really busy. But let’s get together next week.”

“Love to.”

“Listen, what I called for was I need a favor.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“I need a security guard’s uniform for a kind of charade I’m doing.”

“No problem! Why don’t you come by so we can find one that fits?”

“Great! When are you free?”

“How about tomorrow at about 5:00? We’re rehearsing “Noises Off” so I’ll be there.”

“Ok. See you then.”

The next afternoon, when Eric went to the club, he and Shawn had a great time catching up with each other and made firm plans for an evening together when Eric returned the uniform on Saturday.

On Friday evening, Eric, dressed in his uniform, knocked on Sarah’s door and proclaimed in his deepest voice, “Satemwa Security, Madame. Are You OK?”

Sarah opened the door with just a bath towel wrapped around her. “Come in, come in. I’m fine, is something wrong?”

After he followed Sarah into the apartment, he said, “I’m afraid there’s been a complaint.”

“A complaint? What about?”

“Well, one of your neighbors has complained that you were in your garden in plain sight without any clothes. “

“The old lady. I know who that is. It was Mrs. Scarborough, wasn’t it.”

“I couldn’t say, madame.”

“Well, I know it was. She’s just jealous,” Sarah spat out. “Besides, she can only see into my garden if she climbs up to the third floor of her house and looks out of the window. She may even need binoculars to see me clearly!”

Eric, by this time was having trouble keeping a straight face, because he knew Mrs. Scarborough and Sarah’s imitation was accurate. “Be that as it may, madame, but were you in the garden without clothes on?”

“Well, of course, I was. I always garden naked. It’s a way of getting an allover tan. And saves on laundry too!”

“Be that as it may, madame, but it isn’t proper. What will the neighbors think of it?”

“And why should I care about that? Let them enjoy it! And I assure you, I get a very proper tan.” With that, Sarah whipped her off her bath towel, revealing that she had painted her nipples scarlet with lipstick and added an arrow down her torso pointing at her crotch. This was supposed to be the prime erotic moment, but instead Eric started to giggle, and soon both of them were collapsed on the sofa laughing hysterically. “Well,” said Eric when he had stopped laughing enough to talk, “I guess it works for some people.”

“Be that as it may, madame, but it isn’t proper!” declaimed Sarah in a deep voice, arms open. That started them off laughing again. “Maybe old married couples need something like that, but we don’t. I think you’re quite sexy enough just as you are. Though I must say, you look good in a uniform.”

“And you looked great in your towel. But you look great in anything … or nothing, especially with strategically placed lipstick !”

Neither of them, in fact, felt like being romantic, so they poured themselves a glass of wine and cooperated on fixing up some cold meats and salad for supper, chatting about the day and planning for a trip up Mulanje the following weekend. Neither had bothered to change into normal dress, and after they ate, and were again on the sofa, Eric’s thoughts began to turn to how attractive Sarah had become, especially naked. “You know, Sarah, you really should go on FaceBook with before and after pictures.”

“What, like this?”

“Well, perhaps not quite like that, but in something that shows how much you’ve changed. You are really stunning!”

“Do you like my new hairdo?” Sarah’s hairdresser had that morning announced that she thought that the new shape of Sarah’s face deserved a perm, and her hair was shorter and softly fluffed around her ears.”

“I do. Very much. It makes you look entirely different.”

“Suitable for a manager?”

“Very suitable, though perhaps it would be better set off with a power suit for the office.”

“Oh, really? You don’t think gong to the office like this would make me more influential?”

“Maybe, but perhaps not the kind of influence you want. “

“Perhaps you’re right. Not in the office, but right now I think it’s having exactly the influence I want.” And she leaned over and kissed Eric. “Dear Eric, what would I ever do without you?”

Eric, who was indeed being strongly influenced, said, “Let’s concentrate on what you’re going to do with me right now,” and he shifted so that Sarah could get more easily at the buttons of his uniform. Sarah began to undress him, taking care to kiss or caress each body part revealed in that way.

When Sarah undid his pants, Eric lifted his hips so that she could draw them off, leaving only his jockey shorts through the fly of which, his organ protruded erectly. This made her influence over him abundantly clear.

She leaned over and kissed it, which caused it to swell even more. “Come on! The floor will be better.” When Eric was settled on the floor, she took him in her mouth just once, withdrawing very slowly.

After a moment, Sarah straddled him and lowered herself on him, but then stayed motionless except for running her hands over his chest and gently tweaking his nipples. When his breathing evened out somewhat, she clenched her vaginal muscles, causing him to catch his breath and bringing her close to her own climax. Then clenching and unclenching slowly and then with increasing speed, she drove them both over the crest of the cliff and they sailed together through the sky trailing stars and glory. Then she carefully leaned forward, making sure she kept him inside, and kissed him on the mouth, her hands clasped around the back of his head – long leisurely kisses full of appreciation, to which he responded with gratitude.

“Let’s throw away the book,” he said, when they took a moment to catch their breath. “I think we’ve graduated.”

“What a very good idea! I suppose in twenty years, we might need to look at it again.”

“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.”

To be continued….

Thank you for reading!

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3 Book Romance Bundle: "Her Last Love Affair" & "Loving Him Peacefully" & "Unwel

~ Her Last Love Affair ~ Allie Mclaren is a workaholic who resists having fun during her off time. That is until she gets the worst news of her life. Determined to change, Allie decides to dig up her past and make the most of it. Follow Allie’s incredible journey to make up for lost time, as she partakes in the love affairs she never let herself have. Each incredible rendezvous could be her last love affair. ~ Loving Him Peacefully ~ Katherine is living her dream of working as a business executive for a large company. That is until her bosses ask her to sign her name to something legal, but very unethical. Katherine quits because her good name is worth more to her than a cushy salary. With savings to hold her over for a while, Katherine takes a leap of faith and joins the Peace Corps. On the way to her assignment, she meets a very handsome man traveling abroad as well. They have an instant connection and things quickly heat up. Katherine wants to stay focused on her task, but that is easier said than done. Follow Katherine as she embarks on the journey of her life. Will she find love, happiness, or misery, in the deepest parts of the jungle? ~ Unwelcome Reunion ~ Sarah is an expatriate living in Malawi. She goes to a prestigious school with the other expatriates of the country, but never seems to fit in. She is slightly overweight and has never tried to modernize her outward appearance. During her high school years she forms an unnatural obsession with one of the popular boys in her class. Her world is shattered when she makes an advance toward him and he turns her down. She spends the next several years of her life haunted by that day and fantasizes about making amends for it at her high school reunion. At her reunion she again finds herself the joke of the school. Sarah leaves in shame and decides she is tired of being the ugly duckling. She starts to lose weight and shop at more modern clothes stores. During her years of transformation she reconnects with an old friend and they begin to see each other on a regular basis. They want to remain friends but things quickly escalate and they both teach each other a few things in their sexual journey together.

  • ISBN: 9781310906657
  • Author: AJW Publishing
  • Published: 2016-06-22 23:35:12
  • Words: 45004
3 Book Romance Bundle: 3 Book Romance Bundle: