The sun on his back turned his brown skin golden with sweat and extra melanin. His skin was smooth, rippled only by the strength and firmness beneath it. His jeans hung low from lean hips, strong thigh disappearing into the length of very worn jeans and the steel toe boots he wore somehow made it an outfit ready for any runway… -well, minus the dirt.
“They’re watching you, you know. So is she.” Mark informed his friend with his usual crooked tooth grin.
“I know. They aren’t much good at being subtle.” Ian said, stopping to wipe sweat from his forehead with the back of his gloved hand, leaving a streak of mud as he did so.
“Why don’t you talk to them, or at least her, put them out of their misery?”
“What makes you think they are miserable? They do this every day. I hardly think misery is the word for the way they watch me.” Ian continued to dig, unearthing a beautiful patch of Triumph Tulips and placing them in the waiting flower pot. They would stay there until he was ready to replant them.
“I know you like it. You aren’t fooling anyone. You like it when I am around you. You get to be the god, while I am the invisible man.” Mark said.
“You like being the invisible man.”
“That I do.” Mark chuckled.
“Besides, I am not trying to have your tiny wife as an enemy. I can just imagine what she would do to me for having “floozies” around you.”
Both men erupted in laughter at the recollection of the word that Mark’s wife, Anne, so frequently used. Mark had been married to Anne for 5 years, and the difference in height made them quite the pair. Anne is 4″11 and her husband 6″4. They are annoyingly happy, usually affecting whoever was around them. But that life wasn’t for Ian. He had already been married.
His mood soured thinking of his wife, Sally. Sally had died 3 years before while aborting his child. He hadn’t known she was pregnant. He could still remember the call, the doctor informing him that his wife had developed a complication during the procedure and had died while undergoing treatment. He was confused. Sally had told him that she was going on a business trip. She had left the day before and was supposed to be gone for 5 days. She was an ambitious advertising executive and after years of putting her career first had promised the time had come for them to have the baby they had discussed. As far as he knew, they were trying.
After the call and returning from the hospital, a search revealed she had lied to him. There were birth control pills, patches, morning after pills. Sally hadn’t wanted to be pregnant at all. The truth hit him like a punch to his gut. She had been lying for the past year, saying she just hadn’t been pregnant and they should try another year before seeing a specialist. After she died, the doctor informed her that it had been her third procedure in a year and that an infection from her last had been undetected. That was one of the reasons she hadn’t made it.
He had his feet swept from under him. His world turned upside down. He had thought him and his wife happy. So much for that.
“She’s coming.” Marks’ voice pierced his thoughts.
He turned to see Madelline Cage coming towards them with a tray of lemonade. They all knew she didn’t give a damn if they were thirsty, she just needed an excuse to come near them.
Where the hell is she going? He was thirsty, but he didn’t want to take her lemonade. She would linger. Try to talk to him. He made a great show of ignoring her and annoyance as she approached and interrupted them.
“Thought you guys might be thirsty.” she said chirpily.
Maddie is pretty in a way that was hard not to notice. A skinny, pale skinned, blue eyed, ginger girl who was a model and full-time college student with loads of personality. The sun gleamed on her riot of red curls and she smiled a knowing smile as she offered Mark a glass, then him. She was always whispering with her friend, Kerri. They looked at him and giggled all the time and he made a point to stay away from them.
Especially, Kerri. Kerri isn’t just pretty, she’s beautiful and oozes sex appeal. She’s lanky, all legs and breasts, and tall like Maddie, at least 5’11. He’d never known skin could be that dark before he met her. He hadn’t even been sure that she was real until she had spoken. She had a round, pretty face, large eyes, a mouth that looked too small, high cheekbones and a pointy chin. When she moved it looked like liquid pouring from a cup. Teeth that appeared unnaturally white in contrast to her unusually dark skin.
Suddenly, as if he had conjured her with his thoughts, she appeared, walking out to them. She had the nerve to smile at him. Christ! Didn’t this girl have any sense? She couldn’t be more than 21 or 22, a college student, model and best friend to his current client’s daughter. He wondered about their friendship briefly. They looked quite the pair walking around giggling and turned more than a few heads. Though they appeared to be complete opposites in looks, they really only appeared to be different colours of each other.
Her milky voice pierced his thoughts and he nodded in her directed with a passive “Hmm”, willing everything within him not to look at her. This girl is a kid, he’s 36, a widower and not about to ruin the business relationship he had with Chris Cage by getting too friendly with his daughter or her friend.
Chris’s projects are always large, complex, challenging and gratifying. He would contact Ian’s company at least once a year, and with that contract came the guarantee of a year’s salary at least, whether the project lasted three months or nine. He also got tonnes of referral business, from Chris’s friends and business associates loving the work Ian did on Chris’s yard. He had clients waiting for months to have him do their landscaping. Kerri, whatever her last name was and her goddess of a body needed to leave him the hell alone.
He drained the glass and offered it back to Maddie without looking at Kerri, mumbling his thanks.
“So Ian, are you single?” Maddie asked as he turned away.
What? Mark choked on the lemonade he was still drinking, coughing profusely. Ian looked at her pointedly, just in time to see the horrified look on Kerri’s face at the question.
“What?” Maddie asked Kerri in a show of innocence. “How else are we going to find out?”
“Discretion? Ever heard of it?” Kerri answered, seemingly annoyed.
“You should have inquired yourself if you wanted discretion” Maddie replied.
She immediately returned her impatient gaze to Ian, clearly expecting an answer.
“That’s none of your business, Madelline.” Ian’s voice took on a note of authoritarianism as he shot daggers at her with his eyes.
“I’m making it my business. How else will a woman know whether you will be open to advances?” Maddie pushed back standing her ground
What the fuck? What is going on here?! He could hardly put his thoughts together as Mark began howling.
“I don’t want your advances!”
“I never offered them. I asked whether you are fair game if someone wanted to.”
This girl was clearly expecting him to answer her. Had she ever been told no her entire life? Before he could reply, Kerri threw up her hands, turned on her heels and hurried back into the house. He watched her go a little longer than he intended to.
Mark laughed so loud that Ian considered flooring him. With nowhere else to direct his anger, Ian turned it on Mark.
Be quiet! Or I will make you!” he thundered.
“Ian, there isn’t enough money on earth to make me stop laughing right now!” Mark informed him.
He knew it was true. When Mark got to laughing, nothing could stop him before he was ready to. As he considered what to say to Madelline Cage, She reminded him she was waiting.
“Well?” Maddie prompted.
“Who wants to know?” Ian asked, wondering if it was Kerri, or if they were having some teenage squabble over him.
“I do.” she said innocently.” I am asking, right?”
“Yes, I’m the one asking, or ‘yes’ you’re single?”
“Yes, Maddie, I am single.”
He braced himself for her response with a steadying breath, but all she said was thanks. Then she turned on her heel and left.
As she left, thunder clapped across the sky and the heavens burst open from a dark cloud. The sun was gone and Ian held his face up to it, welcoming the feel of the water against his bronzed skin. For a brief moment, while his eyes were closed, he imagined that she joined him in the rain.
Thunder clapped, hammering across the sky as lightning seemingly too close to the ground ripped through the large, low, heavy, black clouds. It had been this way for a week. The unprecedented showers were responsible for flooding across Washington and showed no signs of ending anytime soon. It was like a monsoon. Water was everywhere. Ian watched as the rain poured, thinking for the thousandth time about the loss of the work done on the Cage property. It wouldn’t be just the work he was doing that would be undone, there would no doubt be damage in areas his team wasn’t working as well.
The system was predicted to clear within a day, hopefully, they were right. His stomach reminded him of his hunger and he decided on soup for dinner. He compiled the ingredients when the doorbell rang.
Who would be out in this?! He thought. Are they crazy?
The sight of her huddled over and shivering through the glass of his front door squeezed his heart and threatened to stop it. Her head bent, she continued to rap on the door without looking up.
“Kerri?” he called through the door.
She looked up puzzled as if he was the last person in the world she expected to see.
Well, touche, baby.
As he opened the door, he all but dragged her inside and looking out before he closed the door.
“What happened? Why are you out in this weather?” he asked, his voice carrying over the foyer as he thoughtlessly helping her strip out of her soggy jacket and stalked across the room into the bathroom for towels.
“I was in all week. I ran out of food and kept waiting for the rain to ease but it didn’t and nowhere was delivering. Hunger got the best of me.” she told him. “Then on my way back, my car got stuck in the mud. As you can imagine, AAA isn’t out and I’ve been in the car for about 3 hours and now the battery is dead. This is the first house I saw.” she moaned.
“Ok. Well,” he said while rubbing his neck.” You aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Let me get you something dry to wear.”
In his bedroom, Ian tried to ignore the sight of her soaked blouse and sweatpants clinging to her skin. It was foolishly thin for the weather but her jacket would have made up for it. He pulled out his phone and checked the forecast again. Hoping desperately it would be correct. If it was, he just had to make it 24 hours and she would be gone.
He found a shirt he thought would be long enough. He walked briskly back to the foyer and handed it to her.
“Bathroom’s over there.” He nodded in the direction she had seen him go for towels.
“Thanks, Ian. You really don’t have to do this,” she said, her voice low, weighted with embarrassment.
“Oh? And what would you do if I didn’t?” he challenged.
Her beautiful eyes rounded fully in her head as she chewed her lip. Just to make her squirm, he forced her to make eye contact. Big mistake. He reclaimed command of the situation.
“Get out of those clothes before you get sick. I was going to make soup. You good with that?” he asked over his shoulder as he headed for the kitchen.
“Um, yeah.” Kerri answered as she shut the bathroom door.
Ian worked quickly, chopping, stripping, seasoning. Anything to keep his mind from straying to the woman in his bathroom. Girl. She’s a girl. He had to remember that. A few minutes later she emerged and the shirt hadn’t swallowed her as much as he’d hoped. Her full large breast, now free of a bra moved freely as she walked, her nipples still peaks from the cold. He pulled his gaze to her face and found himself looking into her eyes. She bit her lower lip and his eyes followed the movement.
Was that deliberate? His throat went dry. Her eyes told him she was flirting with him. He wouldn’t survive her being here if she did this.
“Make.. yourself comfortable.” he squawked, clearing his throat when he didn’t recognize his own voice.
“Thanks. You happen to have a blow dryer?”
“It’s fine. Nice kitchen.” she mused. She ran her long slim fingers along the granite island. Stretching her legs, twisting her body and looking around.
He wished she would leave. But she inched her way around the kitchen, coming closer and closer. He could smell her. Something sweet, fruity and unfamiliar. He wanted to taste it. To taste her. To lick the melanin off her skin.
And then he felt pain. He’d cut his finger. Suddenly she was there, grabbing his hand and holding it under the pipe. Squeezing it. Taking care of it, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. Sally would have never done that. She was prim and proper and never cooked. She would not take the sight of blood easily. Kerri wasn’t like Sally.
Kerri. Her scent filled him. She inspected his wound, confirmed it wasn’t too bad and wrapped it with a towel he handed her. Then she looked at him, at his lips.
“Why don’t you let me finish this.” she said, stepping closer still. The room was charged with so much tension he could hardly breathe.
“You cook?!” he asked incredulously.
“You’re not used to women who cook?” Kerri teased.
“Not women like you.”
“Who are women like me, Ian? Young women?”
“Well, maybe we’ll work on changing that perception, then.” Her eyes sparkled with what sounded to his ears like a challenge.
Ian watched as she took over making the meal with ease and grace. Asking for a few ingredients he never thought to add. Some he had, some he hadn’t.
Several times she caught him staring and the last time he realized she was simply staring back. She was finished, and the food was cooking. The air suddenly became thick, electrifying, tense. The attraction was unimaginable and his palm began to sweat. She inched closer, without breaking their connection and before he knew it, she was in front of him. Standing between his legs, carefully not touching him. He stood up, the bar stool he was sitting on toppled over, the noise and the pot the only sound in the room.
She said nothing, she just stared and it was fraying his nerves. Finally, he closed his eyes, rubbing them against the picture in front of him. Willing himself to turn away, to turn her down.
“Look, Kerri.” You’re a kid, Maddie’s friend…”
“Really? I’m a kid? That’s where you want to go with this?” she looked hurt.
Damn! That wasn’t what he wanted.
“Don’t you care how Maddie would feel then?” he asked, hoping the mention of her friend would change her mind. He needed her to change her mind because if she didn’t, he didn’t think he would be able to say no if she pushed her luck.
“Why would Maddie care what we do?”
“She likes me, right? The other day? The Questions? She must have said something to you.”
Kerri giggled, then turned her smile all the way on.
“Maddie has a boyfriend. She was asking because I like you. Not her. I don’t particularly care for how brazen she was about it, but that’s Madelline for you.” she shrugged apologetically.
“Oh.” Ian didn’t know what else to say. He felt like an idiot. The questions had been troublesome but he dismissed them because despite what she’d said, he had believed that it was Maddie who had wanted to know if he was single. His heart took a dive in his chest, realizing she had been interested in him. Now she was in his apartment half-naked under his shirt, trapped by the endless rain.
It’s going to be a long night.
“You ARE single, aren’t you?” Kerri looked at him with concern. Her head tilted in ‘don’t you dare lie to me’ sort of way.
“Good. So, no hidden wife or children then.” Her smile deepened, revealing the deep precipice of a single dimple. It wasn’t enough to stop the souring of his mood and anger in his expression. No. No children. Over Sally’s dead body, he thought.
“Definitely, not.” His stare bore into her, hard and cold. Her smile disappeared.
“What?” she asked.” What did I say?”
He spun on his heel and headed to his bedroom. That’s what you get, fool, for even thinking about anything with this girl. What would you do, sleep together and then what? From what he saw, Nick treated the girl as though she’s his daughter. He wouldn’t take kindly to Ian looking at her and thinking about her the way he does. He stopped abruptly, placing his injured hand on his hip and crushing his eyes with the other. His motion had barely begun when he felt her crash into him. Breif though it was, he felt the softness of her breasts pressed into his back amd his body jerked in response.
“Sorry. You stopped so suddenly.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. Still bitter from the surfacing of the memory of his dead wife, his words stung more than he intended.
“Christ, you really are a child. Stay out my way will you?” He regretted the way the words sounded the instant they left his mouth. He saw her face register the shock and hurt, but he didn’t stay to watch it. He strode to hid bedroom and slammed the door. He paced the room, talking to himself.
That was unnecessary. Go apologize, dick! Nah, maybe if she’s mad, she’ll back off. After five minutes of warring with himself, he heard the unmistakable sound of the front door being slammed. What the…
Ian walked out into the foyer, calling her name, half knowing she wasn’t there. The shirt he had given her to wear was folded neatly over the sofa. She had left.
Without thinking, he went after her, seething. The rain beat painfully on his head, with every step he sank further. The cold slammed into him as he was instantly drenched. It was dark and he just barely made out her form. She fell and struggled to get up.
“Dammit, Kerri! Where the hell are you going?!” The rain drowned his voice and he knew she hadn’t heard him. Moving faster, his bare feet slipping in the knee-high waters as they gushed by; he picked up speed. When he was close enough he reached out and grabbed her jacket. She jumped and screamed, frightened by his appearance.
“Where are you going?!” Half drowning in the downpour, he strained to hear what she was saying.
” None your damn business. Leave me alone and go home!” She plucked her jacket from his grasp and attempted to continue on. He grabbed her again.
“Let’s get out of the rain. I’m sorry, but where are you gonna go? You’ll freeze in the car without heat.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time. I’ll manage.” Kerri again wrenched herself from his grasp.
What? What does that mean?
Ian followed Kerri for a few minutes and realized he had caught up with her. She had stopped and was staring in simple defeat. He saw the car, about 100 yards perched against a wall. The water had risen high enough to move it and it was nearly submerged. The water where they were standing began rising rapidly. Ian grabbed Kerri and headed back in the direction they had come. This time she complied.
Once inside the house, they collapsed unto the floor, silently grateful for the altitude and warmth of it.
“Are you trying to get us both killed?!” Ian blazed once they both recovered.
“Who asked you to come?!” Her large eyes bored into him. Judging him, challenging him. “I was getting the hell out of your house like you wanted.”
“I’m sorry if I offended you. That wasn’t my intention.”
“Hmm, whatever. I’ll be out of here as soon as I can if you’ll permit me to stay till the rain is over.”
“Kerri…” Ian sighed heavily. How he managed for her to hate him already he didn’t know. And though it was just as well that she was angry with him, he didn’t like the feeling.
“No. It’s okay. It was my mistake believing the interest was mutual. That’s been corrected.” She got up, stalking off in the direction of the bathroom. He got up too, kicked her soaked jacket and boots in the corner, and stripped off his t-shirt, adding it to the pile. After a series of sneezes, he stripped out if his pants too. Ian hurriedly walked across the room, but she opened to door as soon as he reached it and stepped out, bumping into him.
She jumped as if he’d burned her, mumbling again that she was sorry.
“You keep doing that, I’m going to think it’s on purpose, you know.” His voice was unintentionally low, his eyes roaming her face. He licked his lips and swore he tasted hers. His arm rose, and he pinched her chin. She was wearing his shirt again, as much cleavage as was showing, he was barely just able to tear his eyes away, fighting the urge to pull her into his arms.
“You keep sending me mix signals. It’s giving me a whiplash.” She breathed.
Jesus, this girl is blunt.
“What mixed signals?” His finger traced the outline of her succulent pink lower lip. His natural response was obvious between them.
“You keep looking at me and talking to me like you’re interested. Yet, if I encourage or flirt, you act as if you want nothing to do with me.”
“I’m 36, Kerri. What would you want with me? How old are you? 21, 22?”
“20. Why is my age such a big deal?”
“Shit.” He dropped his hand, then brought them up to rub his eyes in an increasingly familiar gesture. “Sixteen years is a big gap.”
She stared at him, her eyes nerves of steel, scarring him. “Women date older men all the time. It’s not a big deal.”
“Is that what you want? To date?”
He chuckled, shaking his head and looking at their feet on the floor. Her toes are pretty. She stepped closer. He looked up and was greeted with her hands cupping his face, and her sucking on his lower lip. His while body betrayed him. His heart hammered violently, in a way he couldn’t recall ever experiencing before this moment. He felt something curl and settle in his belly. He groaned in protest, yet not actually moving. She was tentative, calculating, teasing. Rubbing her nose on his. Pressing her breasts against his chest, gently swaying her hip across his erection. How much more could he take? He rested his arms on either side of the bathroom doorway, willing himself not to touch her.
“Kerri… no.” He begged, even as he followed her mouth as she teased him.
“Yes.” She whispered. “Say yes”. She wrapped one arm around his neck and guided one of his to the small of her back. As she pressed up against him, pursuing the impossible task of getting closer, she deepened the kiss.
His hand pressed her into him. His other hand joining the ceremony sliding over her bottom, past the length of the shirt and back up under it. He hardened even more at the feel of her nakedness.
Ian broke the kiss to ask, “Where are your panties?”
“Wet.” She responded breathing hard, tilting her head and giving him better access to her neck.
His roaming hand crossed the threshold of her hip high, lowering down her thigh and slipping into her folds.
“Mmmm…. you’re right. Wet,”
The words seemed to trigger something inside her and she moaned and wrapped her long leg around his waist, opening up for him, asking for more. He obliged. Shifting from the doorway to the wall, his hand held her head in place as he kissed her with wild pressure, stroking and rubbing her, willing her to join his rhythm.