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Is he trying to seduce her, or is it something else entirely?
Angela checked into the bed and breakfast she stayed at the several times a year she came to the beach. She liked the place it because it was away from the ocean in a small historic town that actually was nestled on a cove away from the beach proper and all the associated traffic. Something about the salt air and a leisurely weekend reinvigorated her for facing her depressing situation at home.
She carried her small travel bag upstairs to Room 4, her favorite room. With her travel bag on the bed she peered through the sheer curtains where she could just see the placid bay where boats quietly bobbed next to the dock or at their moorings.
With her clothes neatly situated in drawers she drew out the bottle of wine she brought with her, opened it and poured some of the rich red liquid into a glass. Then, with book and glass in hand, she descended the side stairs to the sitting porch. She always looked forward to relaxing with some wine and a good book after a four hour drive.
One of the two rockers on the porch was occupied by a handsome youngish man writing in a notebook, so Angela settled into the other one and placed her glass on the table between the rockers, noting that another glass of red wine already sat on the table. She glanced over at the ‘young man’ and smiled to herself that when you’re sixty-two most everyone seems young.
The young man was amiable and the two soon struck up a conversation.
“I’m Mike. Mike Shepherd.”
“Do you come here often?”
“Several times a year. Usually with a friend, but sometimes alone. My friend caught a cold and didn’t feel like travelling today. We were planning to do the Tour of Homes that they hold every fall. We’ve been coming for six years or so, although we’ve been coming here either in the spring or fall for some years before they started the Tour of Homes thing. It’s nice to be at the beach after all the tourists have gone. We’ve done the tour so many times some of the owners know us by name and give us a peek at things the general ticketholder doesn’t see. You?”
“I come a couple of times a year, but this is the first time in the fall. I think I rather like it.”
“Have you ever stayed here before?”
“I usually stay somewhere right on the beach. What about you?”
“Always here. Room 4. It has a nice view of the bay.”
“This is my first time in town. While I find the ocean to be relaxing, I kind of like it here. I’ll consider coming here into town more often. I think it will suit my purposes.”
He laughed. “Inspiration. I people watch and study things like the sky and water for creative ideas.”
“Artist? There are quite a few here. I know some of them.”
He shook his head. “Words. I write.”
“For a living? What do you write?”
“Books. But tell me something about yourself.” He laughed “You tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine.”
She took a sip from her glass and considered. She didn’t usually share personal information, but something about Mike put her at ease. For some unknown reason in her gut she felt he would understand.
He noted her hesitation. “Hey, I don’t mean to pry.”
“It’s okay. It’s not like it’s a big secret. I come here partly to get away from my asshole husband.”
“Whoa. Strong words. How long have you been married?”
“Technically or practically?”
“There’s a difference?”
“Technically I’ve been married thirty nine years. Practically speaking we haven’t really been married for the last fifteen of those years.”
“There’s a story in that, I’m sure,”
“He’s always been self-centered, but I decided early on I could live with that. But sometime around our twentieth anniversary he started acting strange, hiding things, secret phone calls and things like that. What blew the lid off of it was a letter from the bank saying they couldn’t extend any more credit against the house. That blew me away. I thought the house was nearly paid off. I confronted him and he got really angry, accusing me of prying into his affairs. I let him know that the house was my affair, too. He stormed out. That’s when I became suspicious of what he had been doing. He always did the taxes and kept the budget, which was fine with me up until then. I taught high school Social Studies and kept the money I made separate from the family account, which turned out to be a good thing. I used my personal account for travel and clothes and things like that, and socked away a tidy sum for retirement. But I started looking at bank statements he left lying around and was aghast at how much debt he had run up.”
She took another sip of wine. “I questioned him and eventually determined he was a heavy gambler. He bet on golf with his golf buddies. He bet on college sports. He bet on pro sports. He played cards. He lost a lot of money. But that wasn’t the real kicker. He had a cell phone from work that he always kept with him. If he got a call when we were together he slunk off to take the call privately. If it was a casino şirketleri legitimate business call he wouldn’t have been so secretive.”
“Makes sense. Seems like a red flag.”
“One day when he was putting his golf clubs away a slip of paper fell out on the garage floor. He didn’t see it, so I picked it up. There was a woman’s name and phone number written in a cutesy feminine hand. The next day when he was at work I dialed the number to see if it was just a business contact. Do you know what I got? A strip club. I asked for Krystal, and was told that she had the day off but would be performing the next day. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I started looking for other signs and when I did laundry I found other notes from other women in his pants pockets. Some even had what looked like dates and times on them. That was it. I hired a detective to find out what he was up to.”
“I can imagine. You don’t need to go any further.”
Angela shook her head. “Now that I’m started I need to vent or it will churn inside me and ruin my weekend. It turns out he was meeting these women at hotels. He’d book a room and meet the woman sometime during the afternoon. After twenty or thirty minutes they came out separately and left. I definitely knew of three of these meetings, but from the notes I suspected there were a lot more. I met with a lawyer and had divorce papers drawn up, but didn’t file them right away. Then I confronted him. Actually one day he came home from work and found all his stuff in suitcases and bags in the garage, and I told him to get out. I told him I had names, dates and places.”
“Good for you.”
“He wasn’t used to me being assertive, and made like he was going to hit me. I stood up to him and dared him to do it, and he left. The next day he came crawling back, begging. He actually got on his knees and begged me to take him back. What got me was that there was so much debt on the house I couldn’t possibly pay it off. He had the big salary. I told him he could move back in, but we’d stay in separate bedrooms. God knows what kind of disease I could catch. I told him that he had to pay off the loans he had taken out. All of them. Every penny. And I told him that I would handle the finances from then on.”
Angela sipped wine again and settled back in the rocker. “So, technically we’re married, but practically we’re not. He has finally paid off everything he owed. I haven’t seen any hint of the womanizing behavior for years. We even did begin to sleep in the same bed again. I figured why should I have to wash two sets of sheets all the time? We sleep on opposite sides of the bed and haven’t had anything like a marital relationship since this all happened. I mostly travel alone or with a friend, but he will occasionally take me out to dinner – I’m a business asset. But I have no trust in him.”
Mike rubbed his chin. “I’m trying to reconcile what I see with what you’ve told me. If all this happened like you say, you must me…upper fifties? Yet, I see a woman younger than that.”
“I’m not afraid to tell my age I’m sixty-two.”
“You’re kidding. You really don’t look it. To tell the truth, I watched you unload your car and thought you were a very attractive woman.”
“I’ll bet your husband hasn’t told you that in quite some time.”
“I can’t even remember the last time he complimented me.”
“Well, here’s what I see before me. Remember I’m a writer, so I notice things. You have lovely light brown hair, and the blond highlights you have in it catch the sunlight and is perfect for your complexion. Your eyes are dazzling emerald green and set in a very attractive face. Your smile could light up a room. Your figure belies your age, and you have very shapely legs. I’ll get in trouble for this, but you also have a very shapely ass. Please don’t be offended by that, it’s meant as a high compliment. Any real man would be proud to be seen walking down the street holding your hand.”
Her mouth fell open and she was speechless.
He squinted as he looked out over the garden. “The sun is setting and is getting in my eyes. How about we move over to that bench in the corner of the garden? It faces away from the sun.”
They picked up their glasses and her book and moved to the bench. Mike carried along the small table so they could set their glasses on it. She also laid her book on the table and he smiled. “‘Wind on the Plains’ by G.M. Stroud. Do you like it?”
“I do. I think it’s better than ‘Sarah’s Heart’.”
“Do you? In what way?”
She looked askance at him. “What do you know about romances?”
He laughed. “I wrote them.”
To her disbelieving stare he stuck out his hand. “G. M. Stroud at your service.”
“But…but the author is a woman.”
He laughed. “That’s why I use my initials. George Michael Shepherd, but I go by Mike. I write under the pseudonym of G. M. Stroud. Tell me, why do you like the latest one better?”
“I like the way Susan is a stronger than usual character and stands up for herself. But wait. How old are you anyway? You casino firmaları can’t be more than early to mid-thirties. How can you know so much about life to be able to write about it so well?”
“I’m thirty five, but I’ve had my share of life experiences, too.”
Angela mused “Our daughter Anna is thirty two.”
“Have a picture?”
She reached in the small clutch she carried whenever she left the room for a short time, and produced a photo of a young lady on the beach with a surfboard tucked under her arm, wearing sunglasses and a very skimpy bathing suit.
“Wow. Is she single? I might be interested.”
Angela laughed. “She’s very married. Ten years now. Theirs seems to be going a lot better than mine.”
He studied the photo from different angles. “I can see the resemblance. If this is how you looked in college I bet the guys were all over you. You know, if you two stood side by side I think you could almost be taken for sisters.”
She laughed, but he continued “I see it in your faces. From the angle of the photo I can’t see her back, but I’ll bet her back end is as good as yours. She’s certainly got your legs. Can’t see her eyes, but her hair is blond and yours seems to be brown.”
“The hair she gets from her father. People do often tell me we look a lot alike, but I usually think they’re just trying to flatter me.”
“You really do.” He handed back the photo and studied the wine in his glass for a moment, then looked back at her. “What were we talking about before we got sidetracked with the photo? Oh, the book. I never intended for Susan to be that strong, but as the story progressed she just developed this inner strength. Armando helped her find it.”
“They did have a bit of a torrid relationship for a time before they had a falling out. What happens to him?”
He laughed and wagged a finger at her. “That would be like peeking at the end of the book. You’ll just have to read on and find out for yourself.” After a pause he continued. “Look, I’m always interested in a woman’s perspective on my writing. I know some women read my books for one thing. Tell me, how do you find the sex in the book? Too much? Too little?”
“You have a good way of describing it. Some authors are a bit…clinical. He touched this and she touched that. Others leave everything to the imagination and don’t give you anything to hang on to. I think you give a satisfying description, taking into account the woman’s feelings. How can you know about that?”
“That’s part of my story. I was married once, myself. Only lasted three years. We were way too young and immature. Kate did start me considering how women think. I travel a lot and do people watching. I look at how people relate to one another. I don’t deliberately do it, but I overhear conversations. Some people on their cell phones don’t seem to care what others hear of their conversations. I talk to women, like we are now. I listen. I’ve always been told that I understood women, Kate excepted. I never understood her. We are still friends, though. She’s remarried and seems happy.”
Angela studied Mike. “How do you make a living writing? It doesn’t seem to be a very stable career.”
“I wrote and peddled short stories to magazines while in college. I did some other non fiction writing. I wrote my first novel at twenty two, self-published. It sold in the dozens, but it was a start. I had a store of stories in my head that I had to get out. Kate liked romances and I devoured every book she had. After we divorced my parents died in a car wreck and I had a small inheritance that I used to tide me over until I could get established. My second book was picked up by a real publisher. It did okay, and I learned from it – even made a little money. Boy, that first royalty check, even for a hundred dollars was a confidence booster. The next year I had a relatively successful one – ‘Tara’s Confession’. Advances for a new one and royalties started to come in. Reviews were good. The last two, ‘Sarah’s Heart’ and ‘Wind on the Plains’ have been well received even by the critics. ‘Sarah’s Heart’ is in the works for a movie. I hate it. I sold the rights to it for a chunk of money, but I think they’ve screwed up the whole story. We’re negotiating for ‘Wind on the Plains’, but this time I’m insisting on artistic control. I want the final say on the screenplay.”
He took a sip of wine. “I love writing, but it is a job requiring hours each day either in actual writing or in research. Did you notice the description of the bookstore where the two lovers meet in ‘Sarah’s Heart’? It’s based on the bookstore right down the street here. I did a reading here once and liked the way the store is laid out. I take things I know and work them in.”
She drained her glass. “How can you keep up the pace? Doesn’t it get tiresome?”
“So far I’ve managed. By the time I finish one book I’m already planning the next. I’m lucky things have worked out for me. I have a good editor who’s willing to spend some time with one while I start the next.”
“Well, I’ll look forward to your next one. Where is it set?”
“Actually güvenilir casino in a beach town much like this. It’s one reason I’m here now.”
“Good luck with it.” She looked at her watch. “Wow, look at the time. I guess I’ll head out for some supper.”
“You know the place better than I. How about we go together? My treat.”
She took them to a little café she liked and they strolled back to the house under a rising moon that glinted off the surface of the water. He was quiet during the walk, thinking. Upstairs they discovered he was in Room 3, right next to hers.
“It’s been good talking to you, Mike. I’ll be getting up early. I like to go out for coffee after breakfast and then I’m off to the tour.”
“Have a good time. I’ll be over on the beach most of the day.”
Before she opened her door he took her chin in his hand, leaned over and kissed her. “Pardon my forwardness, but I thought you needed that.”
She was shocked into silence.
He added “Here’s something else you may not be ready to hear. I think you need more than a kiss. It appears to have been a long time – I think you need an orgasm.”
“I…I…I think we’d better go in now.”
“Are you afraid? Do you remember what it feels like?”
“For god’s sake, I’m old enough to be your mother. How can you talk like that? Are you trying to seduce me?”
“I note that you didn’t slap me. I don’t go around saying things like that to women I’ve just met. But I mean it. How long has it been? I’m not trying to seduce you. I’m talking about something I think you need and secretly want.”
“I’m quite capable of doing that myself.”
“Are you? How long since you did it?”
“I don’t talk about things like that to strangers.”
“Maybe you should talk about it. Maybe that can jump start you. A beautiful woman like you deserves good things.”
She thought to shock him in return. “So, are you proposing to do it?”
He wasn’t the least bit shocked, and shrugged. “If need be. If it’s what you want. I’m not talking about having sex. I’m talking about orgasms.”
“How can you have one without the other?”
“Oh, my dear Angela. It is quite possible to have an orgasm without actual sex. That’s one thing Kate taught me. If she was hot to have one I could give her an orgasm without even taking my pants off.”
“And you want to do that with me?”
He shook his head. “It’s not what I want. It’s all about what you want. Do you want to get it back again?”
“Well, I’m sixty-two. My body has changed. I can’t do things I could do at thirty. I’m dry and sexual contact can be painful. Yes, I have tried it myself, not to my satisfaction. It hurt. There. How’s that for being frank? That should take the wind out of your sails. What you think I need is impossible for me to get.”
He took her hands in his. “My dear Angela, of course you can do it. It is quite possible to work around your perceived ‘problem’. So the question goes back to you. Do you want it?”
She put her hands to her face. “I’ve missed it, but it’s been years. I can’t even imagine how it could be done. Here’s a confession. I even tried a small vibrator. It didn’t work either.”
“If it’s something you want, let me worry about your so-called problem. It’s quite easy to fix.”
He opened the door to his room and stood in the doorway with an eyebrow raised. “Well? Do you want it?”
Angela began to tremble and held her hands over her mouth. She felt like she had just run a long distance, as her breath came in gasps, and she swallowed hard.
He extended an arm invitingly into the room. She edged inside. “God help me, what am I doing?”
With the door closed behind them he poured two glasses of wine and held one out to her. “I don’t know if it’s the same as what you were drinking, but I think you’ll find it satisfactory. Have a seat.”
She sat nervously perched on the edge of one of the two chairs at the small table in the room. He walked behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. She first felt a jolt like electricity run through her, but then she became inexplicably relaxed. She closed her eyes and tilted her head to one side and rubbed a cheek on his hand.
“You do remember some things.” He massaged her neck and shoulders.
“So, what do we do?”
“I guess that’s what you need to decide. What do you want to do?”
“I want to feel…whole again.”
He led her to one of the comfortable chairs and sat her down, then took her hands and knelt on one knee before her. “Why don’t you close your eyes and try to remember what it felt like. I’ll help you. If you want to stop at any time, just say so. That’s something my father taught me – no, stop, and don’t are taken at face value and are respected.”
“I’d like to turn the lights out. I’d hate to ruin your image what you see in me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with your body, but if it makes you feel better the lights go out.”
When the room was dark she closed her eyes. He reached up and rubbed her shoulders again, then her arms, up and down. He leaned forward and kissed the top of her head, followed by a soft kiss. His hands went under her arms and up and down her sides. It was only after several minutes of light touching that he brushed against her breast, causing her to inhale sharply.
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