The Interview

The InterviewRachel let the job applicant, Rob W–, pour her a drink. She’d already gulped one martini in an effort to put the tiring day behind her. Sheer craziness to go into this tired. But the appointment had been made ten days earlier, and men eager for this particular job weren’t exactly thick on the ground.

Well, that wasn’t quite it. More like, men capable of meeting the job requirements weren’t easy to find. Plenty of men applied. Few were chosen. This one had all the credentials—gorgeous, tall, muscled, self-assured, and a hint of provocateur lurking at the corner of his sensual mouth.

She had taken her time dressing, trying to get in the mood with a fitted white spandex blouse and a straight gray skirt that fell from a wide waistband to just above her knees. Her breasts pressed against the spandex and crowded the low V-cut neckline. Underneath, she wore panties made in the new loose-leg style.

Somewhere midway through her therapeutic martini, she had examined herself in the mirror, infuriated that when she leaned close to see her skin, everything was out of focus. She had roamed around for a few minutes trying to find her reading glasses. Her dark auburn hair curled in an attractive jumbled mass around her head, but she thought her green eyes looked tired. She had jerked off the glasses and tossed them onto the bathroom counter. How would she know? She couldn’t see her eyes with the glasses over them, and couldn’t see up close without them. And then he’d knocked.

Why the hell was she nervous?

“Thanks,” she said as he handed her the glass. Anyway, it didn’t matter how she looked. His job was to make even the most unattractive woman feel supremely fabulous. He interested her only in a clinical way, which made things more difficult for him. His future clients, assuming he passed her test, would be eager to have him.

“Tough job?”

“Yes, in a way,” she mused, sipping the martini. “But it’s our careful preparation that allows us to offer such an exquisite selection to our clients.”  Her breath hitched slightly as he leaned toward her. Points for that.

She hurried on. “As I’m sure you know, when you meet with a client, the situation is entirely in your hands. You have to consider her special requests, of course, if she has any. Many women don’t. You have to put her at ease and pursue your seduction. She has to see you want her.” She ran her hand through her hair, feeling suddenly embarrassed.

He settled next to her on the couch and turned his body to face her. “Yes, I know, it’s a delicate situation,” he said smoothly, looking at her with dark blue eyes that crinkled at the corners. He leaned forward, set her glass aside, and brushed his lips over her mouth.

His mouth felt firm and yet sensitive, and she let herself respond. His hands came to her shoulders, tugging her slightly toward him. Then he slid his touch over the front of her blouse, pressing against her breasts in a motion that showed her he knew what a woman liked. Her nipples hardened, and he let his palms linger over the knotted peaks for a moment with his hands slowly circling.

The tip of his tongue tickled against her upper lip, and she inhaled at the sensation as her mouth opened slightly. He had a scent of cut grass, clean and sweet. The vodka asserted its gentle relaxation, and she felt moisture gathering between her thighs as he continued to stroke her breasts.

Moments later, he stood up and pulled her up in front of him. His smile said he knew he would please her. More points. She let him back her up to the wall while he kissed her again, until he pressed her between his muscled chest and the cool wall and she could feel his bulge against her belly.

His mouth trailed down her throat and into the valley between her breasts. One by one, he released the tight buttons and followed the trail with his lips, until her blouse and bra hung open and his mouth seized first one breast, then the other in an erotic play of tongue and teeth.

“Beautiful,” he whispered.

Christ. Her sex pulsed with a surge of moisture. She felt his hand at her knee, sliding up her thigh, and then he encountered the loose panty legs.

“Um, I love these,” he murmured against her breast. His hand slid inside the panties and found her wet secret, and his fingers immediately began stroking.

“Oh,” she breathed. “Um.” Okay, maybe not so clinical now.

His fingers teased and probed until her knees became wobbly. He crouched then, shoving her skirt up to her waist and sliding the loose panties to her ankles before bringing his mouth and hands to her center. His fingers pulled her swollen lips apart and she felt his tongue licking at her stiff bud.

“Oh, yes.” Her head fell back against the wall. With her lower body on fire, her breasts full and tingling, she honestly didn’t know how much longer she could stand up. His hands swooped around her buttocks, massaging and tugging while his face buried between her thighs. A finger penetrated and her knees gave.

With a quiet chuckle, he stood up, wiping his mouth on his sleeve before starting to unbutton his shirt. His chest came into view, far more incredible than the application photos had led her to believe. Muscled shoulders, lean ripples down his abdomen, a dusting of dark body hair over the chest that narrowed to a thin line at his belt—she licked her lips and leaned to graze his flat nipples with her mouth.

He pulled the belt open and unbuttoned his pants, but didn’t go further. He kissed her again, stroking his tongue along her lips and plunging deep into her mouth. His hands worked at her skirt fastening until he had dropped it to her feet and only her blouse and bra remained hanging from her shoulders. He half carried, half walked her to the bedroom while his mouth again sucked at her nipples. She longed for him now, her entire body throbbing with need.

Random thoughts raced through her mind. What was it about men that made their lovemaking so intense? Size, for one thing—bigger, stronger in every dimension. Scent, for another, musky and sharp, probably a hundred pheromones she couldn’t consciously identify but which nevertheless called to her in some mysterious primal language.

Spread back on the bed, she closed her eyes as he sucked and toyed between her legs. Blissfully erotic, his teasing brought her to the brink and held her there. She wanted to scream.

Finally plunging inside with fingers and his mouth clamped on her hard bud, he sent her over the edge. Her body writhed and bucked, captured in his strong hands, at the mercy of his tongue. Heat seared through her in the long aching climax.

His voice whispered close to her ear as his face brushed through her hair.

“Do you want me?” he challenged her.

“Yes,” she whispered back. “Yes.”

He leaned back to a kneeling position between her legs, and made a deliberate play of unzipping. He let the slacks fall down his thighs to expose the stunning manhood peeking out from his shirt tails. No briefs, her brain registered. A fresh wave of heat rolled down her belly.

He ripped his clothes off and then lowered his body over hers, spearing her with his thick cock and sliding all the way in.

“Oh, Christ,” she groaned.

He felt huge inside her. Her hips spread to accommodate him. He moved after a few seconds, sliding out a small distance before ramming back up to the hilt. Oh, shit. She twisted underneath him, deliciously caught between pleasure and pain and suddenly desperate to have more.

He slid out slightly further, then rammed all the way in again. Distantly, her rational brain analyzed his method and gave him a ten out of ten for everything. But more to the point, he was fucking her real nice, thick cock sliding in and out, his mouth reaching down to capture her nipples or forcing her mouth open for an invasion of his tongue.

Damn. Gooseflesh broke over her body as his cock kept driving at her, out almost the whole way, in as far as he could go, now slightly faster, and her pussy clenched repeatedly in orgasmic surges as he shook her body with his plunges. Her hands streamed over his chest, his biceps, his broad shoulders straining in his exertion as his body filmed in sweat.

“Do you want me to come?” he breathed.

“Oh, yes,” she begged as her hips thrust up against him. “Please.”

He shifted to a faster, harder movement then, scooting her slightly up the bed as he drove into her. His hands seized her shoulders, forcing her down against his assaulting hips. His cock filled her belly.

His chest hair brushed her nipples and his pubic bone repeatedly crushed against her throbbing bud until the hard knot exploded in waves of orgasmic frenzy.  Pleasure shuddered over her as his hips bucked and pushed. She felt his semen burst into her in fast hot jabs and she grabbed his buttocks, wanting him never to stop.

Dimly, she acknowledged the session had ended. He kept his arms around her shoulders as he eased onto one elbow, then lay beside her for a few minutes. When his breathing slowed, he kissed her again and caressed her breasts, bringing a fresh wave of arousal over her. She turned toward him and traced his jawline with her finger.

“You are good,” she smiled, “and hired.”

“That’s good to hear,” he said in a husky voice. His eyes lingered on her face for a moment before examining her body. “Not difficult. Do they all look as great as you do?”

“Spoken like a true gigilo You flatter now. But no, not to be vain, but you surely realize lots of the women you see will not be greatly attractive or young. Can you handle that?”

“I think I can.” He heaved himself up from the bed and tossed her the panties. “Just wear those, no blouse or skirt allowed,” he joked as she sat up.

She felt warm and happy, just how all their clients should feel at the end of a session. When she had pulled the panties up her legs and reached for the blouse, he came up behind her and grabbed her breasts. He pulled her back against his hips, and she was incredulous to feel his cock already hardening against her buttocks.

“You are our kind of guy, Rob,” she muttered as her nipples tightened under his hands. Maybe, in this case, a bit more interview time would be required…

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Book 2 in Jarrod series…

One of the supreme joys of writing –for me at least–is stories that write themselves. Jarrod Bancroft and his stern Madam, Macie Fitzgerald, broke onto the printed page that way, and there seems no stopping them. Now, in Book 2 of the series, Valentine’s Day provokes a darker round of self-examination for them both. Snowy weather and blazing sex in this novella of 18,800 words.

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Midwinter Fire

ID-100171032The hair on Augusta’s neck prickled. She resisted the urge to look around the grand, dimly lit hall and tried to focus on what Transy and Jox were saying.

“And the mood—it’s so wonderful to have fire and all the other elements in place,” Transy said. “I think this is the best year I’ve experienced.”

“Yes,” Augusta replied, forcing a smile in spite of her distraction. “The Manon has done his work well this year.” She shifted her position, angling to grab a sideways glance at the entry hall. Whatever had sent her hair up waited there, and much as she didn’t want to see it, she was quickly losing the ability to resist.

A swell in her breasts had forced them more tightly into the plunging neckline of the purple dress, a dress which appeared to her in a dream. After struggling with the impulse, she had commissioned its sewing. A high collar stood at the back of her neck, then flattened to lapels at her collarbone before forming a deep narrow “V” to her solar plexus. Short cap sleeves left her arms mostly exposed, but she had been driven by the image from her dream to wrap gold bracelet bands around her upper arms and to pull on long gloves of shimmering black satin. The stiff silk brocade dress hem stopped abruptly at the top of her thighs. Dark knit tights and sleek black boots covered her legs, which now had begun to quiver slightly.

Whatever it was, it exuded power in all realms. Her eyes darted briefly to the entry hall opening before she forced her gaze back to her companions.

“The inclination is at its full apogee,” Jox muttered. “All craft waxes in these days. But for the solstice, they are warning that the dimensions may merge.”

“Yes,” Transy said dismissively, “we’ve heard that so often this season. But what could it mean, really? Shall we fly any faster? Have stronger visions? I for one wish not to have foresight at all—it often proves terribly depressing.”

Augusta let her gaze wander over Transy, a beautiful woman by any measure, but in the world of their times, a doubly remarkable appearance. Her pastel-tinged white hair lay in long radiant tresses past her shoulders. The pale pink velvet of her fitted dress lay like icing on a tiered cake. Her figure, transformed by spells and, if she admitted or not, a bit of what the body crafters had on offer, featured full, perfectly formed breasts and wide flared hips, daunting in someone who stood nearly six feet tall. While the fashion trended toward smaller, more androgynous looks for both sexes, a few like Transy had chosen a different path.

“I agree that visions can be disturbing,” Augusta murmured. “But they hardly ever have to do with us personally. I’ve learned to let go of the emotion.”

“Good for you,” Jox laughed, lifting his glass toward her, an intense expression on his handsome face. “Psionics 101, right? Informed and immune.” He wrapped his arm around Transy’s waist and pulled her tight against his side. “Some of us, unfortunately, can’t seem to work out the immune part.”

Jox’s masculine energy enveloped Transy in a way Augusta knew pleased and reassured Transy. For all Transy’s intimidating appearance, she really was quite a kitten. A damn good thing Jox loved her, catered to her moods and watched over her. Transy would be lost without him.

The banter between Augusta’s two friends rose and fell like so much ambient noise and failed to keep her attention. In a sudden burst of emotion she didn’t try to define, she excused herself and wove through the crowded room toward the entry hall. All around, people laughed, drank, and danced. The tables, set on either side of the tall Yule tree, groaned with their burden of roasted boar and fowl, root vegetables cooked tender in fatted broth, trays of cheeses, breads, and dried fruits, and honeyed cakes. For a solstice gathering, always boisterous and thick with intrigue, this one writhed and turned around them in unexpected ways. Surely that alone accounted for the tension rising through her.

Music from the musicians assembled at the far end of the room sailed around her in sharp clean waves. The scent of the heavy pine boughs stung her nostrils. Her breath rose and fell on wafts of wood smoke, the fragrance of a hundred scented candles, and something else, something that defied her in its very essence. The drum of her pulse pounded in her ears as she reached the wide arched doorway.

“Absurd,” she muttered, looking intently through the few clusters of people in the process of arriving. A brace of candles shown from the wall mount, casting its flickering glow toward the massive iron-clad door and around the attendants accepting furred wraps and hats from newly arrived guests. None of them emanated anything more than the typical effusion of light. Whatever set her nerves on edge did not rest among them. Yet Augusta’s senses reached an even higher pitch.

After a moment in which she scanned each and every person, she whirled around to return to the main hall. Perhaps another of her frequent visions had piqued her attention, not a real person. Dreams, visions, all of it came forth in extra force at winter solstice and especially this year as they had reached the earth’s furthest distance from the sun. So she shouldn’t be at all surprised to feel so on edge. Laughter rolled out from the room, welcoming as the warmth from the fires roaring at the enormous hearths at either end of the grand hall.

A subtle rumble grazed her eardrums like a touch. Her breath drew in sharply as her eyes sought the source and quickly settled on the unmistakable gleam of eyes set in seeming black space of the corner. Gooseflesh erupted over her body and her nipples stood at sharp points, almost painful against the taut silk of her dress.

“A vision, no less.” A rasping baritone voice cut through all other sound. “And well worth the wait, I might add.”

Whether she wished it or not, Augusta’s full sensory array riveted immediately on this man, now revealed in his aura of red and gold, his energy radiating in visible bands. Tall, well formed, he watched her with dark eyes and an intent expression. His face shifted as she stared, a leering phantom one instant, a sensitive brooder the next. His presence pulled on her like a powerful magnet, so that she had the sensation of leaning backwards to avoid falling against him. How had he come so close?

She scrambled to regain her composure. “Perhaps your dreams delude you,” she replied beathlessly. “I am not your vision.”

A dazzling smile met her words, his face instantly cut with intriguing shadows that spread either side of his mouth and at the corners of his eyes.

There is no delusion, his words came to her mind. You are my dream just as I am yours.

Augusta’s chest froze in a half-caught breath. Only the hammer of her heartbeat reminded her that she still lived. She felt herself rise off the floor, caught in a conflict of such strength that she could not reckon with either side of the argument. Yes, he was her dream. No, she did not want him. And yet, she felt as though she had waited her whole life for this moment.

He didn’t move, but her breasts swelled as if touched. His lips burned her mouth even as he stood, still smiling, two feet away. He smelled of crushed cedar and juniper berries, damp forest earth, cold fur of wolf. A sudden urge to run seized her, but she could not move.

His form came more fully into the candlelight as he leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, propping his boot-clad feet in front of him in a gesture of enforced relaxation. Nothing of his appearance suggested anything less than great wealth and high breeding. Tall boots of fine smooth leather, garments in thick woven wool, a great coat whose ample folds passed his knees, and even the glimmer of white cuffs at his gloved wrists spoke to his generous circumstances. The line of his jaw cut menacingly along the top of his high white collar, as if his body only tolerated the trappings of civilization. Something of him exceeded these garments, something wild and ruthless. Only the quirk of his sensual mouth betrayed his cunning disguise. Fear and desire warred in her throat.

“Did you think that your equal would be any less feral than yourself?” he queried. His eyes trailed slowly down her body before returning to her face.

She felt his glance as if the rough graze of his hands. “I do not accept you as my equal or in any other relation, nor did I share my thought with you,” she retorted.

“And yet, I have received it. Perhaps that could serve as a statement as to our fate, my dear Augusta.”

“Nor have I given you my name, or permission to approach me.”

“I strain toward you, just as you toward me. Your voice whispers to me on the winds of summer and winter’s ice, your flesh burns my hands. I know your name as well as I know my own.”

Strathor. His name filled Augusta’s thoughts. I am bewitched.

The light changed, and she realized that they had risen halfway to the high ceiling of the hallway. Listless warmth invaded her form, somehow now clothed in little more than a gossamer veil. Likewise, Strathor’s powerful form shimmered in golden flesh barely hidden by folds of sheer silk. They circled, still rising, and the sounds of music and voices faded.

From some ancient time of which she had faint but familiar recollection, Augusta recognized the mountaintop where she found herself. A bare promontory of aged stone, its crown worn and bare. She stood facing Strathor, both of them clad in supple animal skins, a slight breeze brushing their hair. They rose again and circled around the peak, rosy skies of morning and dusk sending the sun’s golden gleam over their countenance.

I have always known you, he said without speaking.

His body met hers, skin so hot it burned her fingertips.

And I you, she replied.

She knew their past and future, knew it fully as she had flown through time and space with him, to this peak, this moment. They rotated in the fragrant air, their eyes interlocked, their thoughts merged.

And yet you resist me, he protested.

As I must.

Augusta, Goerta, goddess and mate, I am made to fit you.

His hands molded her breasts, his mouth scorched her lips. She inhaled his scent, filling her lungs with his breath, his essence hot as coals.

Flames of desire consumed her. His robes fell away as he stalked toward her across the verdant meadow. A spring rushed forth from the ground and frothed along its rocky passage where lush grasses dipped in the warm breeze. Strathor’s dark hair draped at his wide shoulders, teased the corded muscle that ridged to his neck, and partly hid the strength of his jaw. The ridges of his belly rippled along the narrow path of dark fur to its terminus between his legs. There, the stalk of his manhood rose in hunger, bold and rigid, veined and eager.

She embraced him, his muscled arms and chest, the strong legs, the curve of his neck. She settled upon his shaft with her form, the form of a woman wet with her own hunger. He captured her leg and pulled her upon him, latching his teeth to her shoulder as his other hand lifted her hips to give himself entry. Ever deeper he plunged, until the whole of her body trembled at the invasion and still he pushed farther. The world spun, the days and nights raced past in whirls of cloud, of red sunrise, of wind rushing past and stirring their hair, the black of his mane, hers copper.

They coupled, sweat pouring over them, their throats hoarse with cries of pleasure. Their arms encircled each other so that the rhythm of their hearts sounded in joined cadence, so that their loins rolled and pounded as ocean waves in storm. Fire swept over them in conclusion of their mating, lingering flickers of flame teasing and roiling.

Augusta raised a trembling hand to move a lock of hair back from her face. A curled strand had fallen from its clustered place on the top of her head. She stood in the hall staring at the stranger. His face too seemed less composed than when she had first set eyes on him. With a burst of cold, snow-laden air, more arrivals swept in through the door. How long had she stood there?

“Will you join me at the feast?” the man asked, offering his arm.

“Perhaps,” she said, suppressing a smile. “If you promise to continue the enchantment.”

His lips curved and his eyes glinted. “I’m pleased to say I have no choice,” he said softly, trapping her in his gaze. “Fortunately for us both, the Fates will have their way.”

Just Ask

bigstock-Sexy-Muscular-Shirtless-Man-30768167Explicit sexual content, adults only.

Emily knew she should never have taken her. But she needed gas, and the two of them were on their way to a showing at the new Springloft apartment complex, and Sheryn needed the training. Emily cursed under her breath.

“Oh, shit, I see what you mean,” Sheryn enthused, squinting her eyes as the attendant came toward the car.

“Well, don’t say anything, or I’ll throttle you.”

“Can I pant?”

“Shut up.”

His body moved inside that uniform like a well-oiled machine, all ridges and curves and hard planes of muscle that should be illegal outside of a strip club. He leaned down at Emily’s open window and gave one of his most charming smiles. She resisted the urge to do something rash.

“What can I help you ladies with today?”

“Oh…” Sheryn began.

“I need gas,” Emily quickly interrupted, “and my windshield keeps streaking.”

“We can take care of that,” he said confidently. “Fill it up?”

“Oh. My. God,” Sheryn whispered.

Emily threw her a hate glare. “Yes, please.”

He held his head at a cocky angle as he walked around to the gas cap. Emily waited, completely distracted. A tapping sound and him pointing reminded her to flip the opener.

“Damn,” she muttered.

“You should just ask him,” Sheryn said. “What the hell? Just quit thinking about it and ask him. I sure as hell would. God, look at that.”

He had gathered paper towels and a spray bottle, and leaned across the hood to scrub the windshield. Muscle and veins corded his forearms and hands. Emily felt faint.

“I think I’m going to ask him,” Sheryn continued.

“Don’t you fucking dare.”

“Seriously? Do you have some kind of claim?”

“No, but if you’re going to get in the middle of this, it better be when I’m not around.”

“Then ask him. Or I’ll ask him for you.”

“No, absolutely not.”

“I am. Seriously.”

“No.”

“Okay, you asked for it.” Sheryn rolled her window down.

“Sheryn!” she hissed. “Stop!”

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll say something.”

“Not just ‘something,’ ask him out.”

He grinned from the front of the car and it crossed Emily’s mind that somehow he was hearing all this, that maybe the heat vents channeled their voices out through the front and he heard every word. She broke out in a sweat.

“Damn it, Sheryn, I’m never taking you with me again. Anywhere.”

“Am I fired?” Sheryn grinned. “His name is Chris, right?” She leaned her face to the window. “Chris?”

He came around from the pump, wiping his hands.

“Damn you,” Emily cursed, imagining kicking her—literally—out the door.

He leaned into Sheryn’s window. “Did you need something else?”

“Emily wants to ask you something.”

The bitch smirked and gave Emily a thumbs-up as he came around to the driver’s side. Her heart drummed in her ears. All the times she had thought of doing this very thing, all the clever come-ons, flirts, seductive glances, and none of it, absolutely not one shred, remained within the reach of her mind.

“What do you need?” he asked.

Oh fucking damn. “I need…”

“I’ll say it if you don’t,” Sheryl mumbled.

“I wondered what you were doing after work,” she said in a rush.

He stood up. Emily knew it. This was where he laughed in her face and told her to get a life. Something like that.

“Whatever you’re doing,” he said.

His green eyes watched her like she would say something else. She had nothing to say. Actually couldn’t talk. Since when did she revert to thirteen? She considered just driving off without paying and never coming back.

“Okay,” she managed in a hoarse voice.

“I get off at four,” he said. “And the gas is fifty-three dollars.”

She handed him the debit card and watched him walk inside. She didn’t look at Sheryn. “I could kill you.”

“Oh, get over it. You’ve got a date now. How bad is that?”

“You’re a meddling bitch, and not my friend, and when this blows up on me, I’m going to kill myself right after I kill you.”

Sheryn was still laughing hysterically as they drove away.

***

Emily threw her things into the tiny backseat of his battered, antique Porsche convertible. He looked so damn fine, she could hardly stand it. The car vroomed to life and they lurched off.

If she could just ride with him forever, if the road never ended. His sun-bleached hair whirled and tossed in the wind, and she was reduced to holding hers down with both hands, but the gale did nothing to quench the fire burning between her thighs. She imagined him taking her to some remote hideaway and forcing her to the end of her mind.

“So what now, boss?” he grinned.

Damn. She didn’t want to be the boss. But yeah, this was her idea. Sheryn’s idea, and she had forced her to plan what would happen. It was a brazen plan.

“I’ve got a cabin on the lake,” Emily began. “Up near Walnut Cove. We could go there, hang out, see the sights,” she finished weakly.

He didn’t glance over, and the pulse in his jaw told her she had taken a lot for granted. How could she just assume the lightning desire she felt would be mutual? He was so much younger. She was his customer. He’d probably been laughing about her with the mechanics. She had let herself get carried away in a fantasy, and thanks to Sheryn, now humiliating reality was going to kick her ass.

She would say nothing. Actually, she could think of absolutely nothing to say. Nothing witty, urbane, exotic. She wanted to shrink into the worn leather upholstery. She wanted to rewind to four hours earlier and leave her fantasies as fantasies. Too bad, genius. Too late.

She turned her head slightly toward the side mirror so that his periodic glances didn’t catch much of her worried expression. The countryside whipped by as he maneuvered onto the four-lane. Why couldn’t she just get off on the fact that she was here, within two feet of him, within touching distance of that lithe and muscled frame that had tempted her to such idiocy?

Well, what was worse—agog from afar, or tortured within touching distance? Emily kept getting whiffs of his aftershave, one of those masculine scents whipped up by an evil chemist on Satan’s payroll. Her heat level kept rising, and he could be taking her bowling. Or something equally mundane. Of course he had no intention of tucking himself away in a remote cabin alone with her. She couldn’t bring herself to ask.

Maybe this was one of those fabled hormone surges of menopausal women. From all she heard over the years of her life, for all the Cosmo articles, she hadn’t exactly gleaned that the looming loss of fertility caused women to become predators. But then, there were all those cougar jokes. She had never paid much attention to that, had never watched any of the TV shows that made fun of it, exploited it, but maybe that’s exactly what she was. She was, after all, an older woman, and he was—what—mid-twenties?

Emily cut her eyes sideways to try to see his expression. He caught her glance immediately.

“What?”

“Just wondering, uh—about your age.”

“Nearly thirty,” he said. “And you?”

She flushed. Damn it, he was quick on the draw. Did he mean to embarrass her or was he simply curious?

“Older than thirty,” she said. “By about fifteen years.”

He raised his eyebrows and gave her one of those looks with a half-cocked grin, like she had shown him her naked breast. Well, she had revealed a secret, and maybe it was an intimate as a breast. Emily didn’t hate her body like some of her friends. What she had was what she had, enough in the breast department to fill out blouse darts. Enough good genes that she managed to eat what she liked and yet maintain fighting weight. Yes, things had started moving south, a little sag under the chin and around the waist. She didn’t want to think about all that. She wanted to feel young, exciting, beautiful, and so desirable that this man fifteen years—well, really, seventeen years—younger wouldn’t be able to resist.

She resumed her former silence. Sooner or later, he would start some kind of conversation and it would be on his terms, his topic. She would give up everything to him for as long as the ride lasted. And it surely wouldn’t last much longer. The unusually warm December afternoon had quickly fallen toward dusk, and the heat of the sun no longer overcame the chill in the air.

He geared down at an off-ramp and pulled off onto the wide, graveled shoulder. Emily looked at him, but stifled her questions. He walked toward the back of the car and began yanking on the convertible roof.

“You wanna give me a hand, lady?”

He said it in a teasing voice, but was he teasing by calling her ‘lady’ or with the sexual innuendo? She grabbed onto the thick canvas folds, struggling to pull the heavy frame up and forward. Maybe he just meant he really needed some help getting the damn thing up. Maybe he was just as fucking cold as she was and didn’t want to drive all the way back into town freezing his ass off.  She tried to force the latches together and managed to rip one of her fingernails into the quick.

“Shit,” she muttered, sucking on the painful tear.

“Sorry,” he said. “She’s a stubborn bitch sometimes.”

His green gaze bored into her. It was like those many times she had waited for him to finish cleaning the windshield or checking under the hood, and allowed her eyes to feast on him. All the times she had waited at the inside counter while he roamed around in the garage to get an estimate for her repairs, or to see if repairs were finished. He’d push through the swinging door bringing that smell with him, the smell of autos and tires and oil and transmission fluid and whatever else mixed in. And he’d transform before her eyes, walking toward the counter as the automotive scent faded, tossing down the faded red utility rag he’d used to wipe his hands, taking up his pen or the calculator and regaining his position as front manager, as the man who talked to the customers, the women. And he’d catch her stare. And a half grin would curl at the corner of his mouth.

Was he calling her a stubborn bitch? Was she a major pain in his ass, the lady with the Mercedes who couldn’t take no for an answer, the one who forced the issue, issued a challenge, challenged him to a dare. A dare he now regretted? A dare he never meant to meet? This could all be a tease, some elaborate detour around the invisible topic, the thing she hadn’t actually said. He could be exploiting that, dragging it out. She really was going to slap Sheryn.

At least it was warmer now. The car rumbled down to the turn. This was where he’d make a left, loop around, and get on the side of the highway that headed back into the city. This was when she’d know his answer to the question she never really asked. All those times she had imagined him in bed. With her. Those eyes burning with lust, those sinewed forearms and hands reaching, firmly holding. The question—do you want me?

No—Emily almost gasped. He took the on-ramp going north. Where did he plan to take her? The city fringes had pretty much thinned. No bowling alleys this far out. Maybe he just wanted to drive longer, maybe there were personal issues he needed to figure out, and he’d taken her along for the drive. Plenty of men didn’t talk through what they were thinking. Instead, they drove. Or worked, or compulsively clicked through forty channels without even seeing what was on the screen. As if somewhere along the way, the solution to his problem would arrive in front of his face.

She wouldn’t take the initiative, she decided again. Stay quiet. Force him to talk, to take the lead, determine the subject. This was her concession, giving up words, questions, control. If he didn’t talk, take the initiative, at least she wouldn’t further humiliate herself. Anyway, she couldn’t trust anything that might come out of her mouth.

They drove into the fading light, a veil of coral at the western skyline. The landscape became a kaleidoscope of lights from passing cars, buildings scattered here and there, farms with distant pink vapor lamps high on poles. Emily felt strangely content, nestled in the worn leather seat. His brawny hand rested on the gear shift just inches from her thigh, and for a brief period of time, she let herself imagine that hand moving over to touch her. She imagined his chiseled face, illuminated by the dashboard lights into planes of light and dark, turning toward her with words of acceptance and intent.

None of that could be said. At this point, it didn’t really matter. They’d been driving for nearly an hour, and he hadn’t said anything personal or anything reassuring, and it should have been clear to anyone but an utter fool that he was literally taking her for a ride. Period. She hadn’t considered herself a desperate woman, and damn it, she wasn’t.

She wished she had been bold enough to act on her attraction, proposition him, be the mover without any prodding from Sheryn. If she had that kind of backbone, she also would have the assurance that she didn’t have to have him. Whenever he tired of his drive, or whatever this was, he’d take her back to her car, and she wouldn’t fold up. A stronger Emily would go home, pour a stiff drink, and get over it. That was who she wanted to be.

“Is this the exit?” he said, his voice a sudden interruption to the silence.

“The exit?” Emily stared around. “To what?”

“Where the hell do you think? Did you take a walk on me?” He laughed, his face wrinkling into deeper shadow. “To your cabin.”

Her cabin. Emily felt like she’d been hit in the stomach. A thousand words stumbled through her mind and none of them made a complete, coherent thought. Did he want her? Did he think this was some kind of customer duty? She’d asked him and he was taking her up on it, and now she didn’t know if she could stand it.

“Yes, this is the exit.” The words came out in a choked voice. Maybe there was something else she needed to say, but she didn’t know what it was.

“How far?”

“Another twenty minutes,” she managed.

“Is that you driving or me?” he joked.

“The speed limit.”

“Uh huh.”

A new kind of panic settled in her body. What was the condition of the cabin? It had been two months since she’d been up there with friends, and as best she could remember, the place had been left in decent shape. But it was one of those shared things, and there were others who had access. Jesus, what if somebody else was up there?

Would he kiss her?

Her hands ached from clenching and unclenching. It wasn’t his driving, although as the road narrowed and began circling through the hills, his double clutching and down shifting brought her to a new level of appreciation for his skills. Not enough that he could be on the phone with two more lines flashing, a queue out the door of people wanting to schedule an oil change or brake pads, two other people waiting in cars at the full service pumps, and still have that calm presence, that fully cognizant expression on his face that reassured all of them that he knew they were there and he would take care of each in turn.

No, he had to be perfect at driving as well. This was the torment Emily had bestowed on herself that kept her swallowing and wiping sweaty palms on her jeans. Why today, of all the days she had watched, wanted, waited? Why hadn’t she waited some more, waited for him to make the move—if there was to be a move? Why did she think that suddenly it was okay for her, the older woman, to bluntly voice her desires—well, maybe not as bluntly as, yes, okay, bluntly—and force her attentions on this guy she hardly knew.  Really, how well could anyone know somebody she only saw at his job at a service station? She really wanted to strangle Sheryn.

Emily didn’t know him at all. He had become a mythic figure in her imagination, remembered from years before as a young soldier gone off to fight in the Middle East before returning to his family business older, wiser, sadder. Tan, his body hardened. His light brown hair bleached almost blonde, shaved short until after months it had grown to the slightly longer style he preferred. She knew what he looked like. She thought she knew something about him.

But really? She didn’t. She had framed him as she wanted him to be, how she needed him to be, and it had nothing to do with him. Hell, she didn’t even know if he loved someone!

The soundtrack to her drama became the whine and growl of the Porsche engine. It rose and fell as the hillsides became steeper, black in the enveloping night, fewer lights now in the landscape. Emily recognized the last gas station and realized they’d be at the road to the cabin in a few minutes.

“Are you going to tell me when to turn?”

She cleared her throat. “Yes, it’s up here on the right, there’s a red post by the turnoff.”

“You’re awfully quiet. Got a lot to think about?’

“Not really, just enjoying the drive.”

“Yeah, it’s a nice drive, a little long for my taste.”

Now he wants to talk. “I actually thought about inviting you to Germany,” she blurted. Damn it, what was she thinking? That had been another part of the dream, the two of them secreted away in a snow-bound cottage, him coming to her with that look. Smiling. Knowing.

“Germany?”

“Yeah,” she groped for something to say. “Pretty ridiculous, I know, but I’ve got friends over there. They’re going to be gone for a month, and thought I’d enjoy the place while they’re gone. It was an impulse, that’s all. I didn’t want to go alone. I’m not that familiar with Germany.”

“I had about a week there on base on the way in and another two weeks on the way back, but they didn’t give us leave.”

She pictured him in a mass of other young men, all of them anxious, ready to do their duty, eager to get home. What would that be like? She wanted to touch him. “I see.” The red post came up quick. “Here’s the post.”

He jammed the clutch down and made the sharp turn. The familiar scent of the woods and nearby lake invaded her senses, that and the dark forested hillside stretching upward at a sharp angle. The rugged lane switched back and forth, and he took it slow.

Please let us be alone. But did she really want to be alone with him? What if he was an ass? What if he didn’t want her, and they just hung out and talked? How could this possibly turn out the way she imagined? Fantasies never come true. She was ruining it for herself, trying to make dreams into reality. More sweaty palms.

The cabin appeared in the headlights, its lonely profile accentuated by the glare. Funny how dreams never have these moments of panic, this long drawn out wait for something to happen while the stomach twists into knots and every possible wrong turn comes to mind. Funny how the closer you get to what you want, the more you don’t want it because it can’t really turn out the way you imagined.

Still, excitement surged through her as he circled close to the porch and set the brake.

“Is there electricity in there?”

She stared at him. Did he need to do something that required electricity?

“Should I leave the headlights on while you go in and turn on lights?” he asked in an almost impatient tone of voice, like he’d asked her before and she hadn’t answered.

“No,” Emily stammered, digging in her purse for the key. “There’s a thing…” Her fingers raced through the purse, trying to feel the key ring that held the remote for the cabin lights.

“A thing,” he said in a mildly sarcastic tone. “That’s code for…what? Would some light help?” He reached to the dash and clicked on the dome light.

She couldn’t look at him. She felt like she’d entered the seventh circle of Hell. She must look awful, a long day at work and this stew she’d put herself in over him. Over her insanity. She lifted the purse into the dim light, digging through the contents until she found the damn remote.

“Thanks,” she muttered, squeezing the control and watching the cabin lights spring to life.

He shut off the engine. Emily wanted to run. She wanted to ask him to turn around and drive back to the city. She should have been happy that none of the other three part-owners had decided to spend this weekend here. Or maybe they did, and would arrive at the worst possible moment. She realized she was shaking.

He turned in his seat to squarely face her. The porch light illuminated one side of his face.

“So I’m thirty. Does that matter?”

He said it in a serious tone, and she realized that in all the times she had watched him at the station, he’d never spoke in this kind of tone. What was he thinking?

“No, I mean, maybe, if it matters to you. That’s all.”

“Hey, this is your deal. I’m just here for the ride.”

He laughed but didn’t elaborate, and of course his words could only mean that he didn’t really want to be here, and that he saw this as some kind of favor, maybe an obligation for the countless hundreds, hell, thousands, of dollars that Emily Ferguson had placed into his hands for everything from replacing her daughter’s transmission to putting the truck into a new body after her son rolled it off an icy bridge. Maybe this was part of his job, she thought wildly, to keep the customer satisfied.

She didn’t know what to say. She opened the car door, and heard him follow as she climbed the steps to the high porch. In daylight, she could have marveled at the view, the expanse of water, the distant hills. But in the dark, the cabin’s gleaming honey-colored log structure loomed like an island in a vast black sea. Cold wind cut across her sweaty back and she couldn’t avoid the shiver that gripped her as she turned the knob and stepped inside. He closed the door behind them.

It was a small cabin, really just one big room with a fireplace at the far end with a couch facing it, a bed to the right and a bathroom and small kitchen area to the left with a wooden table and chairs. A few woven rugs scattered across the pine floors. The overhead light hurt her eyes, and she walked around the space turning on the stove hood light, the lamps on either side of the bed, and the floor lamp at the end of the couch before returning to the switch by the door to click off the overhead. The change in atmosphere relaxed her slightly, as much as she could possibly relax at a time like this, plus it gave her a chance to actually do something besides twist herself tighter into a knot.

“Nice,” he said, walking to the fireplace. “Fire?”

“That would be great,” she said. “There’s more wood outside.”

He made quick work of the fire, and she tried not to invest in the situation, this man she had wanted so long, a remote cabin with him squatted at the rock hearth stuffing paper under his deft pyramid of kindling. He knew how to build a fire. In moments, flames were leaping through the wood and spreading their quick orange fingers around the logs. She was literally wringing her hands as he went outside, carried in a huge armload of wood, and brushed himself off.

Then he was walking toward her, and there was this moment of him looking directly at her, his eyes actually riveted with hers, and she really thought she would faint. Is that even possible? Could she faint?

He stopped close in front of her. “Should we have brought food up here? I’m starved.”

Christ on a truck. Food.

“Yes,” she managed, “there is food.” She hurried to the refrigerator and hauled out frozen steaks, frozen prepared potato slabs. She opened the crisper drawers, but there was nothing but a couple of withered apples. Rummaging through cabinets produced canned vegetables of various types, soup, sardines, crackers, coffee, condiments, sugar. She gave herself entirely to her domestic duty, that female thing, of making food for the hungry man, and while it gave her some kind of half-assed satisfaction that the supplies were adequate to satisfy him, she also felt dissociated from the scene. The part of her that was preparing food wasn’t the ‘her’ who had propositioned him.

That ‘her,’ well, she had vanished down to a thin, tremulous fragment. She couldn’t hear her voice, didn’t want to know what it said, how it wept for what obviously had become a hopeless mission. Things now would turn to cooking, eating, cleaning up, desultory conversation about whatever a service station guy wanted to talk about, which obviously wasn’t going to be much, considering he had uttered, what, twelve words on the way up here?

He rummaged through the cabinets while Emily set the oven and opened packages. She placed the steaks on defrost in the microwave and wandered to the fireplace. Flames leapt from the split wood logs, growing in strength, crackling, dropping bits of red-hot coal into the ash bed.

“Here,” he said, brushing her sleeve with the back of his hand. He held a small glass half full of whiskey for each of them.

“Thanks.” She immediately took a sip of the amber liquid. It burned a path over her tongue, down her throat. She felt it hit her stomach, coil, and spread its heat.

“Good stuff,” he said, smiling as he took another drink. “High class all the way.”

Emily felt defensive. Was that a kind of nasty remark? “This is a special place. You know, if we’re going to go to the trouble to be up here, we might as well treat ourselves.”

“Sounds good to me.”

He drained the glass, and it occurred to her that the room had taken on the golden glow of the fireplace, light from the flames flickering against the side of his body and face, accenting the pale streaks in his hair, the curve of his mouth. The image of him there, in her cabin, struck her like a blow, sucked away her breath, and suddenly she knew what would happen next.

He set the glass on the hearth, took her glass, and brought his body next to hers in one fluid movement, so fast Emily couldn’t register on the reality of it, and yet, it seemed like he moved in slow motion. His lips brushed over hers and her knees turned to butter.

His arms came around her, pulling her tight against him. Without thinking, she returned the gesture, her hands caressing his shoulders, his neck and upper back as their mouths crushed together. He smelled like heaven, crisply scented with that tantalizing aftershave smell mixed with his own musky odor and a hint of wood smoke. His body felt like carved iron next to her, hot, strong, forceful as he pressed his hips forward to make his bulging groin known.

Oh, she knew. And that was all she knew. Her mind had become a mush of little more than blind response to his embrace, his tongue, the exploration of his hands over her waist, hips, buttocks. Her breasts, swollen and inflamed, pressed against him. An ooze of warm fluids wet her panties. She moaned.

He walked her backwards to the couch, landed her there, and knelt between her legs. Oh, dear God in heaven, he took only seconds to unzip her jeans and tug them down her thighs, and then his thumb had found a warm welcoming home within the wetness. She might have cried out, so intense was the sensation of this man’s hand on her there. She bit her palm.

In fleeting moments, Emily questioned whether she should put up some kind of resistance instead of yielding instantly to his every move. But the question was not only far away and indistinct, it was also absurd. This was exactly what she wanted, what she had longed for over the months, years, since she had first found herself caught in his muddy green stare. She could no sooner form a strategic seduction plan than she could whistle Deck the Halls. She was completely in his thrall.

He removed her boots, jeans, panties, and she lay like a rag doll on the soft upholstery as he sucked, licked, and probed with his tongue and fingers until her nipples jutted like stones and her juices ran. Unaccountable for her cries, groans, and pleas, she grabbed for his shoulders where his muscle rippled like a river current. She stroked her fingers through his hair, twisting and kneading. She flailed from side to side as his hands pushed her knees into the air and tucked her feet at her sides until the whole center of herself had been exposed fully to him, exposed and open, subject to his nipping teeth and thrusting tongue, his constant brush of fingers in and out of her, pulling her juices, provoking her uncontrolled response.

I have no shame. The thought formed and then vanished.

She wailed, wept, and yelled as he brought her to climax, once of those tidal waves of heat and spasm that raged from the top of her head to the soles of her sock-clad feet. The surges rolled through her belly, one after another. And then it occurred to her that he had brought the head of his cock to the flooded center of her sex, nudging only briefly and then plunging into the hungry depths.

Oh dear God, this was life and death captured in an instant. His cock spread her open and filled her up, drove to the heart of her soul, to the very core of her being. He thrust long and hard but slowly, so that after a few moments, she opened her eyes and saw him watching her.

“You like that,” he grunted, sliding in deep. Again.

“Oh, yes,” she gasped. “Yes.”

He held her thighs in a tight grip, remaining on his knees while he fucked her. Somehow his shirt had disappeared, and sweat lay on the skin of his chest in a glistening sheen. His muscles flexed and strained as he took his time fucking her, his breath coming in slow heaves, paced, calculating.

“Oh, please,” she begged, “fuck me hard.”

“Oh, yeah?” He smiled, a knowing smile that came with a sudden lunge forward. His cock drove far into her belly, and his knotted sac shoved against her ass. His breath came in noisy pants with each thrust.

He pounded fast and almost painfully hard, his cock so thick and deep, and again the fire rose and spread through her until sweat soaked her neck and her body pulsed around him, and still he fucked her. He was a fist, a club, inside her, battering at the door of her sanity, tearing open whatever she might have tried to hide. The tide rose and rose, and she was crying out, grasping his biceps, moving to meet his thrusts until the dam burst and her body rippled around him, seeking, asking, demanding. And still he did not come.

He waited while her whimpering and pulsing subsided, then slowly removed his cock. Glistening with wet, its head dark and threatening, his veined phallus stood in front of him like a weapon as he came to his feet. He reached out his hand to help her up, and then walked the few steps to the fireplace, where he squatted to poke at the wood and lay another two logs on the inferno. Heat licked Emily’s skin, and her nipples ached under the layer of her shirt and sweater.

“Time to get rid of this, don’t you think?” he asked in a soft voice.

It shook her up to hear him speak so gently, and she had no words as he lifted the clothing and threw it aside. He lowered his head to first one breast, then the other, and suckled the nipples. His hands encircled the pendulous flesh, kneading and teasing as his mouth tormented the pebbled points, and even more than before, fiery heat consumed her.

The fire at the hearth and the fire at the point of his tongue lathered her in sweat. She moaned. She pulled at his neck, the domes of his wide shoulders. Every time she managed to focus enough to glance at his face, he caught her gaze with a knowing grin, that damn green-eyed look that had snagged her so long before. Had that been his intent? Had he known? Had he played her?

It didn’t matter. Thoughts barely formed before vanishing into the feverish haze that enveloped her more every moment his mouth and hands lavished her breasts. All she could see was the fire’s reflection, the smooth tan skin undulating across his chest and shoulders, his forearms rising and falling to first one engorged mound and then the other. More juices flooded between her thighs.

He leaned back, assessing, as his thumbs continued to stroke the stiff peaks. “Think that will hold you for a while?”

“Umm.”

“Another drink?”

“Umm.”

He laughed, left her standing nude with her body blazing as he walked to the dark kitchen and poured more in the glasses. She drank in the vision, his taut buttocks, the strong thighs, the remarkable size of his rigid cock. Under his work uniform, this body had passed in and out of her view, hinting at its beauty, but even though she had mentally undressed him a hundred times, she had never quite imagined he could be so perfect. The lean curve of his abdomen lay like a slab of worked marble. His chest mounded with pectorals each peaked with small dark nipples. She swallowed as he walked back. He handed her the drinks and dug into his crumpled jeans to pull out a joint, raising his eyebrows in a question. She nodded.

They inhaled and exhaled slowly, savoring the sweet smoke. The night shifted as they sat on the raised stone hearth, both of them naked with their asses on the heated stone, both of them grinning in the impact of the drug and alcohol. The completely bizarre nature of their circumstances.

“Is that what you had in mind?” he said after a while.

“What?”

“That.”

“Oh, you mean…” She didn’t want to talk. “Yes.”

“Want more?’

What did he mean? “If you want to,” she replied cautiously. She wanted it never to end.

He laughed again, throwing his head back slightly to reveal his white teeth and the dimpled creases in his cheeks. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

He led her to the bed, threw back the covers, and mounted her, shoving her legs apart with his knees as he waded in. There were no preliminaries. He nudged the head at the entry, and worked his way along the tight canal until he fully bottomed and his pelvic bone rested against her clit. His cock had become even larger, it seemed, although she knew it must be just that she had swollen from the intensity of his fucking. It didn’t seem possible that he could get any bigger.

His body loomed over her, his muscles heaving and rippling in his exertion. She leaned up to tongue his nipples, sucking one then the other into stiff little points. His movements became faster, pushing her beyond any capacity for action as he spread her open and the head of his cock found that special place. He held himself, somehow aware of the spot inside of her, and began a rapid-fire short stroke that hit that spot repeatedly. Her vagina convulsed and gripped on him, and still he drove against the spot in a frenzied attack that blew her open, exploded her into a thousand pieces as she came in a shuddering howling burst.

Somehow, he managed not to come. Instead, he turned her on her side with her legs scissored out so that he lay between them and drove into her sideways. There was no thought, nothing but the blessed oblivion of his enormous cock sliding in and out, finding new places inside her to incite. He turned her again so that he came at her doggy style, and she felt his clustered scrotum slapping her puffy vulva with each shuddering thrust inside.

She drooled. She panted and groaned. Tears ran down her cheeks. He fucked her and then fucked her some more. He pressed against her anus and fucked her there with his finger while his cock drove her mad. She came again, bowing up in an uncontrolled spasm as he plunged into both holes.

He made noises now as he moved, guttural, animal, and his movements became more agitated. His cock felt gigantic and hot, and he let out a growling sound. His hips moved in short jerks as he buried himself fully inside, and the molten flow of his semen began filling her. Over and over, he reseated himself, with each new thrust releasing a new burst of burning liquid inside her belly.

They lay side by side in the bed. Emily wiped tears off her face. She turned to rest her hand on his chest, and he covered her hand with his. She could see his neck veins pulsing, slowing as his breathing gradually became lighter. His hot skin warmed her breast, belly, thighs as they lay together.

The questions started coming back. Was this a one-time thing? What did she want? If she saw him again, if this turned into something, could she avoid developing emotions about him? How did a casual sex thing keep from getting complicated? She had been married. Twice. She didn’t want to be in love. But she wanted him to want her, find her desirable. Was she a desperate aging woman? She wanted him to hold her in his arms just like he was doing now, wanted him to think of her, be with her. How fucked up could this get?

He cleared his throat. “You were going to take me to Germany?”

She managed a weak laugh. She’d tipped her hand in every possible way. “Yeah, crazy maybe. I know you have a job, and I have things, you know. I thought…”

“Did anybody ever tell you you think too much?” he interrupted.

She missed a beat. Was he trying to tell her something? “No. Maybe.”

“How long did you think about this?”

“What? This, this?” She motioned around the room.

“This,” he said, capturing her breast in his hand.

“A long time. It’s not really my place, you know. You might feel obligated or something. Or, I don’t know, make a joke.”

“I wondered why it took you so long.”

Air drained out of her lungs. What the hell? Had she been that obvious? How many women had hit on this guy? He had the most outrageous ego! He must think she was absolutely pathetic. Damn Sheryn. Damn damn damn.

“Sorry,” she said. “You could have said something.”

He laughed. “That would have taken the fun out of it.”

“Damn you!”

He laughed harder and sat up. “Can we eat now?”

“Bastard!”

“Gotta keep up my strength,” he said, standing at the couch and dragging his jeans up his thighs. “Otherwise you might fuck me to death.”

“Damn. I’m so embarrassed,” Emily raged, grabbing her clothes and dressing as fast as possible. What the hell was he trying to say?

He stalked around the couch and grabbed her up. “You think I didn’t want you, all those times you walked in the office all prim in those fucking suits and ready for business? I imagined taking you right there on the floor. Hell, let people watch and charge admission. I thought about trading you through all the guys in the back, stealing you back there after work and let every one of them take a turn before I finished you off.”

“Oh, god, you think I’m a slut.”

“No, Mrs. Ferguson, I think you’re a damn good lookin’ woman who isn’t getting fucked nearly as much as she needs, and I wanted to put my cock in your mouth and watch you groan. I wanted to fuck you from the first time I saw you.” He led her to the kitchen and started pulling pans out of the cabinets. “But policy is policy, and Eddie made it clear a long time ago—even if I am his half-brother, I can’t go around fucking the clientele. Bad for business.”

“But…”

“Remember, you think too much. I might not be allowed to start anything, but I’m not going to turn down an offer.” He grinned. “I just can’t believe it took you so long.”

The steaks sizzled in the big skillet. He pulled out a bottle of cabernet and poured. They smoked more of his joint talking about weather, their jobs, the tantalizing scent of cooking meat. Starving, they ate bits of cheese with crackers waiting for the potatoes to finish. His eyes gleamed at her, a kind of predatory look that set her teeth on edge, and she wondered if she could actually sleep with a man in bed beside her after all this time, and if she did, what he would think in the morning when the blush of the sex had worn off and she looked like shit.

He winked. “Thinking again?”

She managed a half smile.

“I thought I told you about that,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“We’ll get you cured,” he reassured her. His eyes narrowed. “But I think it might take a while.”

Oh, Sheryn.

November

Cold rain dripping from the eaves. Dead calm woods shrouded in winter hues, dull rust carpet of fallen leaves, bare gray trunks marching off in silent columns into the distance. A thin vapor of mist rises in the valleys as the temperature drops. Waiting now, settled into its long rest, the woods stir only with busy squirrels and occasional passing straggles of deer.

She wrapped her arms tightly across her chest and turned away from the cabin window. The rising shriek of the teapot came to full scream by the time she crossed into the kitchen. Bubbling boiling water steamed into the mug, temporarily floating the tea leaves in the strainer before their gray tendrils softened, relaxed, and drifted to the bottom, releasing their tannins and flavors as they fell. Absently, she jostled the strainer, coaxing more from the leaves, thinking of where he might be at this time of the afternoon, this day.

There had been days like this when they were together, days his truck barreled up the long driveway and he crashed into the house with a wide grin. Rained out, he would say, sweeping her up, kissing her with his face still cold. His Levis littered with sawdust, finish nails clumped in his pockets, he would lead her by the hand to the bedside, where he tugged at her buttons with rough fingers, his cock straining the front of his jeans.

“Mmm, it’s nice and warm in here,” he would say, shoving his hands down the back of her pants, squeezing her buttocks, lifting her against him. And he didn’t mean the room.

Time shifted in segments in those delicious afternoons. Quilts drifted off the bed and piled on the floor, pulled back on the bed and warmed them, sated, as they lay against the mound of pillows. The fire died down. He would go, naked, and crouch before the big cast iron stove to peer in at the coals, stir them around, pile in more wood. He would detour through the kitchen, ask about the pot of soup or chili, or the chicken or roast in the oven, all the while stirring and forcing off a bit to taste.

He’d return with wine and a sheepish grin, a telltale smear of chili at the corner of his mouth. They’d talk about their lives, what they remembered, how they felt, what they wanted, hoped for. Evening would drift across the land, deepening in the woods with the thickening mist.

In the last traces of daylight, he’d dress, venture out to carry firewood, to check on weather, inhale the scent of sizzling beef fat as it escaped into the night air. It pleased him to face the cold then return inside to savor the nest he had made for himself, for her, this tidy cottage in the woods where they could live their lives together.

The strainer dripped tea on the counter as she stood again at the window. The place where he had parked his truck had long since sprouted thickets of grass, undergrowth. Only her tire marks kept the drive marked, cleared, to the place her car sat now. Her old gray cat rubbed against her legs, a reminder that time had marched on, moved, escaped in afternoons like this one, until a whole new year, a new decade had arrived without her noticing exactly how. When.

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