Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!

This is the new book cover I designed for Hooking Up. What do you think? I am working dilligently on edits, and I have made some great progress. Without further ado, here is Chapter 3. Warning-content is NOT suitable for kids under 18!

Chapter 3
After another rough night of missing Michael, I decided to call my grandmother. Not for support, really, but because I thought I should. She raised me after my parents died, but she didn’t like it, and she normally never liked the choices I made. Actually, there wasn’t much about me that she liked. Period. Surprisingly, however, Gran had always liked Michael. I had been dreading telling her that he dumped me ever since it happened. I knew she would blame me somehow. I settled myself on my bed and took a deep breath. I sighed and dialed.

Her cultured voice sounded slightly irritated when she answered the phone. I glanced at the clock and groaned to myself. 6:30? Great—right in the middle of her nightly news program. Gran hated to be interrupted during her TV shows. Strike one.

“Hi, Gran. It’s me. How are you?”

“Fine, Caitlin. Just watching the news. What are you doing?”

“Nothing, really. Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“You are, aren’t you?”

Yes, she was irritated. And she was already making me feel like a wayward child instead of a twenty-eight year old woman.

“Yes, sorry. Listen, I just wanted to tell you that Michael and I aren’t together anymore. He moved out a few days ago.”

“What? Whatever for? What did you do?”

Unfortunately, that was a typical question from my Gran. No matter what, she had something negative to say, and she tended to blame me for whatever she could contrive. I always had suspicions that she even blamed me for my parents’ death, although I was ten at the time. I guess I shouldn’t have expected any less. Still, it hurt.

“Gran, it wasn’t like that. We just grew apart. He decided he needed his space, so I let him go. End of story. Nothing happened, and I didn’t do anything.”

“Well, you must have done something. Nice boys just don’t walk away and leave their girlfriends of ten years. Did you ask him what you did to make him want to leave?”

“Yes, Gran. I did. He said that he didn’t like the way I made toast in the morning. So, he left. There—happy now?” Strike two. Catie, don’t lose your cool, I admonished myself. But some things just don’t change, and I could feel the age-old fight brewing.

“Well, you don’t have to be rude. I’m just saying that you should really look inside yourself to figure out why he would want to leave you. Then fix it so you can get him back.”

“Ok, Gran. I’ll do that. And while I’m at it, I’ll look into that whole global warming thing. Maybe, since I’m directly responsible for the core temperature of the earth rising, I’ll find a way to fix that, too. What do you think?”

“You know, with that attitude, you sound just like your father. I swear you act more and more like him every day. I don’t appreciate your sarcasm when I’m simply trying to help. I don’t see why you have to fling my advice back into my face when I’m just being supportive. It’s not nice, you know, and I raised you better than that.” Strike three. The guilt trip. I had to hang up or I’d end up screaming at her.

“Well, I’ll let you get back to your show. Sorry to bother you.”

“Ok, dear. I’ll talk to you soon.” She hung up the phone and I flopped back onto my bed. I sighed in exasperation. As frenetic as my life was at this moment, some things never changed.

Things had always been this way between me and my grandmother. When I was younger, she’d try everything she could to control me and mold me into what she thought I should be. I was admonished constantly to suck my stomach in, wear more mascara, and dress more like a girl. She wanted me to be a ballerina and refused to attend my karate tournaments because she thought it was too unladylike. She constantly criticized what I did and blamed my dad for making me into a boy. According to her, no matter what I did, I could never do things right. It always had seemed to me that she merely tolerated me, not loved me, and her heavy-handed gruffness always left me feeling cold, lonely, and unwanted.

The very week we graduated from high school, Michael and I signed a lease on an apartment across town, just to get away from her. I could only handle her and her sharp tongue with its pointed barbs in small doses. I compared our relationship to the lab rat experiments that scientists used to perform. After a while, the rat won’t grab the cheese if they get electrocuted enough. I was the rat, and Gran was the Muenster. I was sick of getting stung. As a result of her constant criticism, I rarely went to see my Gran anymore. I wasn’t sure why I had even called her for support; she had never given any. I blamed myself for expecting something different. Sighing, I boosted myself of the bed and headed for the kitchen. There was a pint of Chunky Monkey with my name all over it.

Over the next two months, I concentrated on being happy single. I, Caitlin Paige Edison, was unattached and proud. I was independent and strong. I didn’t need a man to complete me. I was intelligent, beautiful, and competent. I went through the motions of being a confident single woman every day, never acknowledging that I was missing something. I didn’t call my grandmother, and when she finally remembered that she had a granddaughter and tried to call me, I contrived countless excuses to avoid lengthy conversations with her. I couldn’t handle any more blows to my already fragile self-esteem. So, for all she knew, I was out and about constantly, filling my day with so many activities that I barely had a moment. In truth, I went to work, came home, cooked for one or ordered a small takeout meal, and burrowed in my apartment like a mole. I stopped going out with my girls because they gave me pitying looks and tried to set me up with guys they knew. I wasn’t interested. I was far too busy finding myself. They eventually quit trying to set me up, and I was glad. I just wanted to be alone.

But something was missing, and the shit hit the fan one day in February—February fourteenth, to be exact.

I woke up grumpy, but I didn’t know why. I honestly didn’t even realize what day it was until I glanced at the calendar hanging innocuously on the fridge. It was Valentine’s Day, and I was alone. My Lucky Charms weren’t sweet enough to take the bitter taste of being alone on a lover’s holiday off the tip of my tongue. I was alone. Michael had always done something for me on Valentine’s Day, and he never even needed prompting. He usually brought me flowers and chocolates and took me to dinner, and I realized with a start that there was nothing awaiting me today. No surprise deliveries, no sweet treats, no paid-for romantic repasts. There was just an empty apartment, an empty datebook, and me, empty inside.

Did Michael really mean that much, or was it just the relationship that mattered? I wondered what he was doing, and briefly thought about calling him. My hand hovered over the phone, but after a second, I dropped it to my side in a fit of temper. Sometimes I disgusted myself. I had to let him go.

But I missed all the courting rituals, the sweet foreplay that preceded romantic sex. I missed having a man.

Throughout the day, my mind was not on my work. My job as a pediatric physical therapist was usually rewarding, but today all I could think of was my own form of therapy. I felt the need for contact as sharply as I would feel a needle in my side. It poked at me all day, bruising and piercing my tender flesh. I needed a connection badly. I recalled what Heidi suggested, and suddenly, it didn’t sound so ludicrous.
After work, I drove by the fancy restaurants that Michael used to take me to. They were all crowded with couples. I stopped my car outside my favorite, Les Deux, and gazed into the windows. The happy couples seated inside looked blissful. Though I couldn’t hear the conversations, I knew how they went: ”I love you. I love you more.”

I hurried back to my car in shame. What was wrong with me? Had I really pressed my face against the glass of a restaurant and imagined myself among the happy couples?

When I got back to my apartment, I was struck again by Heidi’s words. Why not find someone to ease the pain with? Who said that I had to be in love with the guy I was sleeping with? Maybe a good roll was all I needed to make me less lonely. After all, I was an adult. I had needs, and I was prepared to deal with the consequences of my actions. I was willing to try anything that would take away the ache that had become a burning pyre inside my body. Something was seriously missing, and I aimed to find it.

Having decided to launch a full-scale manhunt, I dressed with care. I wanted to accentuate my long legs and my slim waist. A black tank-dress suited my mood well. Underneath, I wore a lacy black thong and a push-up bra.

I fussed with my dark hair, finally letting it sweep over my shoulders naturally. I could never do anything with it anyway. I applied my makeup carefully, accenting my deep violet eyes. Finally, I spritzed on Red Door, my favorite perfume. It always made me feel very powerful and sexy. I slid my feet into ankle-breaking stilettos and perused myself in my full-length mirror. I was ready. For what, I didn’t know.

I drove around town aimlessly. I didn’t know who or what I was looking for. All I knew is that there was someone out there who would fall for my charms, and I would take advantage of him. I didn’t exactly feel good about that, but I didn’t feel good about staying home and crying my lonely self to sleep either. Which was the lesser of two evils? I had no idea.

I pulled up alongside a decent-looking bar called The Wave. It was well-lit and meticulously maintained. There were no creepy-looking drunks hanging around outside. Instead, the storefront featured flashing neon signs advertising Bud and Miller and curtains hung in the front windows. How bad could a guy be in such a place, I wondered, and parked my car.

I ventured inside slowly, glancing left then right casually, but with the full-alertness of a veteran karate brown-belt. I would know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t see any amazing guys straight-off. Rather, they seemed to all blend in to one big pool of potential. A few glanced in my direction and quickly looked away, almost as though they were afraid of offending me. On the one night I wanted to be noticed, guys were being respectful? What—no catcalls, wolf-whistles, or rude gestures? It was almost laughable, but I didn’t feel like laughing.

I found a small table adjacent to the bar and sat with my back to the wall. I debated leaving after about five minutes, but I have never been one to run away from anything. I had always faced my problems and my attackers with equal zest. I would win this night, no matter what it took.

I placed an order with the roving waitress for a vodka martini. I wanted to appear confident, in-control, and sexy, and I knew of no other drink that would allow me to look that way. The vodka martini was a symbol. It said, “Come get me boys—I’m all yours.”

When I received my drink, I sipped it slowly and gazed over the rim at the individual tables where patrons of all shapes and sizes sat, engaged in earnest drinking or earnest conversation. There were a few really hot guys at some of the tables, but the numbers intimidated me. I didn’t feel like separating a guy from his bunch of buddies. I allowed my gaze to wander further, and I was rewarded with the sight of a lone man sitting in the corner of the room, nursing a beer with a thoughtful look on his face. He was tall, judging by the way he filled out the stool, his knees bent and his feet resting on the lowermost rung of the barstool, and his short dark hair was carelessly styled. He had dark eyes, too, and an olive complexion. He was alone.

I always liked tall, dark, and handsome. Michael had been an odd choice for me, having both blond hair and blue eyes, but I never really minded. Now, my mouth watered in anticipation. I couldn’t believe my own reaction to a stranger, but the pull was gravitational.

I eased myself off my barstool and carried my drink over to his table. I lowered my eyelids, peered at him with a smoky gaze, and said, “Do you mind if I join you?”
He looked up at me, startled, then said in a mellow voice, “Sure. Help yourself.”
I slid into the seat across from him, toyed with the stem of my glass and asked, “Do you come here often?” I couldn’t believe such drivel had escaped my lips, but he didn’t seem to notice the tired come-on.

“No, first time. You?” His voice was pleasant, deep, and seductive. I felt myself getting antsy. I wanted to grab his hand and lead him out the door. The want was excruciating.

“First time for me, too. Do you believe in fate?” I asked him in a husky voice, my violet eyes probing his black ones.

He colored, and said, “Yeah, I guess I do.”

Someone loaded the jukebox and music started playing. It was slow and sweet. He cleared his throat and asked, “Would you like to dance?”

I nodded and he took my hand, leading me gently to the center of the room to the makeshift dance floor. He wrapped his arms around my waist; the contact was so sweet that I wanted to moan. It had been too long. It felt so good to be held. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine that we were a couple, and this wasn’t just a chance meeting in a bar. Maybe imagining things that way would make this blatant seduction easier. I wound my arms around his neck and moved closer to him, resting my head on his shoulder. He smelled edible. I melted into him and tried to make my intentions clear.

He murmured something unintelligible and pulled me even closer. He must have understood. The music wrapped us in a sensual melody. The drums and the bass throbbed, and as they did, so did I.

“What’s your name?” he asked softly.

“Caitlin. What’s yours?” I asked him.

“Ryan,” he answered, squeezing me once. I groaned and nuzzled his neck. The way he smelled should be illegal. It was like a drug, drawing me closer, addicting me, and making me crave things that I probably shouldn’t. Out-of-character things.

When the dance ended, he made as if to release me. I wouldn’t allow it. I kept my arms wrapped around his neck, and tilted my head up to his. I brushed my lips against his check and asked him, “Do you want to get out of here?”

I was amazed at how easy it was to be wanton. The way that I felt right now was anything but innocent, and I couldn’t believe it was actually me, there with him, doing things no good girl ever does. But tonight, all thoughts of good and bad flew out of my head. I was going with my instincts. I needed this like a parched traveler needed water, like an addict needed her drug of choice.

He nodded to me and grabbed my hand. We raced outside but paused on the sidewalk outside the bar. The dilemma became obvious: What did we do now? Rent a hotel room? I only had twenty bucks on me. Did I dare go to his place? After all, I didn’t know him, although I would shortly. The need was unbearable; I made my decision.

“My place is nearby,” I told him, grinding against him sensuously. He nodded again and I led him to my car.

I drove home quickly, very aware of the stranger’s hand rubbing my thigh gently. There was no way I should be doing this right now, but I didn’t care. I had to fill the emptiness somehow, and there was no turning back.

I parked and he came around to my side of the car to open my door for me. He lifted me out of the car and wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me toward him. He backed me up against the side of my car and flattened his hips against me, arms winding around my midsection, his hands sliding up and down my back in a titillating rhythm. His lips found mine, and there was nothing innocent or shy about them. The pressure of his lips on mine was seductive, maddening. Simultaneously, we moaned and his fingers threaded through my hair, pulling a little as he directed my head to put my mouth where he wanted it. He deepened this kiss quickly, his tongue tangling with mine in a full-out erotic caress that was mind-blowing. I was lost immediately. The kiss continued for about a minute until I realized where we were and what we were doing.

I made a little desperate sound in my throat and broke the kiss urgently. I shoved at him so I could move, grabbed his hand and pulled him up the stairs toward my apartment door. I fumbled with the lock as his hand fumbled with my dress and I practically yanked him inside.

Even after so many years with Michael, I had never felt this level of passion with him, but this dark stranger incited fires in my bloodstream. He stroked my shoulders, my sides, my waist, finally moving his hands up to caress my breasts through my dress. I moaned again and pushed the straps of my dress off my shoulders. He shoved the dress down to my waist and bent to press warm, wet kisses onto my neck and the curve of my bosom. My hands tangled in his hair and I guided his mouth where I wanted it to go. His arms encircled me and I felt his hands struggle with my bra as he tried to unbuckle it. He succeeded, and when my breasts were free, he groaned and feasted on them. I undid the buttons on his shirt and ran my hands down the smooth, solid warmth of his chest. He was firmly muscled and lean, and taller than me, which was a bonus. As he nuzzled me senseless, I attached my lips first to his neck and then to his ear and drew forth little groans of delight from my lover. Our clothes seemed to fall off like magic.

I led him to my bedroom and pushed him down onto the bed. I stretched out on top of him and marveled at the solid warmth beneath me. He rolled us over and shifted so that he was nestled between my thighs. He ravished my neck, my ear, my shoulder, then lower, lower. I gasped recklessly, completely lost in passion. When he entered me, I arched and moaned like I was being electrocuted. The feeling was stunningly electric. As he moved, he murmured soft words in my ear, his breath warming my neck and sending shivers up and down my spine. His voice was just as erotic as the motion of our entangled bodies. Within minutes, he had me screaming.

For the next two hours, we enjoyed each other. We gorged ourselves on the other’s skin, drowning in the smell, the feel, the taste of each other. Finally, we lay exhausted and satisfied in each other’s arms. I snuggled against his side and sighed, feeling very sated and sleepy, but with a jolt, I realized that I had a problem. How did I get rid of him?

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